Ringing in the Changes


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Episode order and air dates are a little problematical with Pros. I've chosen to refer to episodes by order of air date, with each year corresponding to the appropriate year in the story. The exception is that I've placed "Foxhole on the Roof" and "Operation Susie" in 1981. The episode right before "Foxhole on the Roof", "It's Only a Beautiful Picture", aired on 27.12.80, while "Foxhole" aired on 07.11.82. Facing that gap in the sequence, I opted to place two episodes in 1981. The episode following "Operation Susie", "You'll Be All Right", aired on 21.11.82. I've kept that, and subsequent episodes, in the year that they were first transmitted.

19 December 1975

"Bastard." Bodie sounded the horn yet again, ignoring the glares of passing motorists and walkers. Eight minutes had already gone by--they'd be lucky to make it to the briefing on time. His plans for grabbing a bite to eat were ruined. All Doyle's fault. That was becoming a familiar refrain, wasn't it? Bloody aggravating sod--he was doing it on purpose.

Swearing under his breath, Bodie climbed out of the car and walked to the entrance of the building. As luck would have it, a blonde pushed open the door just as he reached it. He nipped inside with a smile and a grateful, "Ta, love."

He'd kill Doyle, that's what he'd do. Justifiable manslaughter. Four months as partners--enough to satisfy any court of law that he'd done his best.

Bodie started up the dimly lit stairs, the building silent except for his footsteps. Doyle was arrogant, closed-minded, judgmental, argumentative--Cowley had been mad to team them in the first place. He rounded a corner and started up the next flight. Doyle was adequate at the job, he'd grant him that. Sometimes. But no one could work with Doyle, not long term. It'd be like jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

He continued up a third flight, only then noticing the pine needles on the stairs--nearly blanketing the steps, in fact. Some idiot had been overly enthusiastic. Who'd try to lug a real tree up all these flights of stairs?

Yesterday's disaster only proved his point about Doyle, didn't it? As clearly as he knew how, he'd signalled Doyle to follow Grainger while he took Garrick. It was sheer luck they hadn't lost them like they'd lost Duggan. Which was another sore point. And if he had to listen, yet again, to Doyle's theory that Duggan was still in London, he'd commit GBH. Half the Squad would cheer him on, too.

He followed the trail of needles up the fourth flight. Probably nothing left of the tree to put up. Blind optimism--nearly as bad as Doyle's idealistic intensity.

He exited the stairwell at Doyle's floor, noting that there were no needles in Doyle's corridor. Probably wouldn't survive one glare. Bodie looked around, and located Doyle's flat number. It seemed a cheerless sort of place, all told. He pounded on the door.

"What?" The voice on the other side of the door sounded harassed. Domestic difficulties? Was that why he was late? Bodie started to smile.

"Come out, petal, it's me."

"Bugger off!"

"Don't be like that, Ray, I've been waiting forever for you! Sweetheart." The door next to Doyle's opened and a middle-aged woman emerged. Bodie gave her his most charming smile. She pursed her lips and walked quickly to the stair door. Bodie pounded on Doyle's door again. "We'll be late for Father."

He heard the unmistakable sound of swearing from behind the door but, sadly, no other voice. A moment later Doyle's door opened. Bodie caught nothing more than a glimpse of a hallway inside the flat before the door was slammed behind Doyle as he pushed his way past Bodie. He was pulling on a plaid jacket over his shoulder holster.

"All set, petal?" Bodie asked brightly, following him to the stair door. Doyle shot him a look but didn't answer, instead hurrying down the stairs. Bodie followed more sedately. No sense of humour, that was the worst of Doyle's many faults.

He caught up with Doyle at the front door. "What were you doing up there, anyway?"


Bodie unlocked the car door and reached across to let Doyle in to the passenger seat. "Well, next time, mate, I'm leaving without you. Got that?"

Doyle looked at him. "If you hadn't smashed my car you wouldn't have to pick me up, would you?"

Bodie gripped the steering wheel as if it were Doyle's neck.

"And, anyway, I don't know what you're griping about. Way you drive we'll be early for the briefing."

Bodie started the engine.

"If you don't get into another smash-up along the way."

"It'll be your side, if I do."

Doyle smiled. "Never doubted it for a moment, mate."

Watching for a break in the traffic, Bodie started to pull out from the kerb.

"Oi. Hold on."

Bodie applied the brakes. "What?"

But Doyle was already climbing out of the car, hurrying to meet a leggy brunette walking towards them. Bodie watched as they talked. He ought to leave the little sod to make his own way to HQ. Cowley wouldn't care that it was Doyle's fault they were late. That was just one of the manifest ills of working in two-man teams. And if Doyle was arranging for a date...or, hold on, maybe it was a more straightforward, less strait-laced transaction. He studied the girl, from stiletto heels to overly made-up face. Nice body, and it looked like she used it. But she was probably a grass; Doyle was boringly predictable. He sighed, regretfully giving up on the idea of scandal.

He couldn't resign, not for another eight months. And he wouldn't go to Cowley asking for a re-teaming--that was admitting far too much. No, he reckoned he could survive another eight months. He doubted Doyle could, though--wouldn't be surprised at all to find he'd already been after Cowley for a new partner. That suited him. He might actually stay in CI5 without Doyle bloodying his side. He wanted to stick it, wanted to stay put for once. Working solo. Not having some bloody ex-copper questioning every bloody decision he ever made.

Doyle slid back into the car. "Got it."

Bodie occupied himself with slipping the car into a minuscule space in the traffic flow. He wasn't playing twenty questions.

"Larry Duggan's location." Doyle's voice was rich with satisfaction.

"You're dreaming. From her?"

Doyle turned to look at him. "Yeah, from her. She's reliable."

"She's a hooker."

"And she knows Larry Duggan."

"And apparently your address." Bodie changed down to pass a slower car.

"We had to meet somewhere."

"Breach of security. Well, that's one way to get out of a lousy building."

"Turn left at the roundabout."

"We're already going to be late for the briefing."

Doyle hit the car door. "Then stop the car and I'll get out! Look, I'm not letting Duggan get away again! You can do whatever the fuck you like!"

"You're the one always wanting to call in everything. Going on your own now?"

A long silence followed. Bodie stole a quick look at Doyle and saw the clenched fists. But Doyle's voice was under control when he spoke. "You want Duggan as much as I do. We lost him, we'll get him. Are you in?"

No accusation, just a question. Bodie thought about it. "Yeah. I'm in."

Following Doyle's directions, Bodie manoeuvred through the traffic. If they pulled this off, they might survive Cowley's displeasure at missing the briefing. And they'd get Duggan off the streets before he set any more bombs. Before they had to hear any more from the older Squad members about how he and Doyle had let Duggan slip through their hands.

"Here, pull over."

Smoothly, Bodie brought the car to a stop by the kerb. "What is it?"

"Duggan." Doyle opened the door.

Bodie allowed himself a tight smile. "I'll call it in, then follow you with the car."

Doyle looked at him, fleeting surprise in his eyes. He nodded and eased out, blending quickly into the flow of pedestrians.

No, they wouldn't let the nutter get away this time. Cowley's words on the subject of botched operations, and failing to call in backup, still rankled.

It was impossible to follow Doyle closely, but they had a system worked out so Doyle would always know where the car was, in case a suspect took to a vehicle himself. After about ten minutes, Bodie's r/t signalled.

"Duggan's gone up into a block of flats."

"Right." Bodie circled to the back of the building, calling in their location on a different frequency to HQ.

"He's out again. On foot. Carrying a satchel."

"Same pattern." Bodie acknowledged HQ's notification that a team was on its way to the flat, and reported that they were following Duggan again. A satchel could easily hide a bomb, or bomb-making materials. Their information suggested the start of another holiday bombing campaign, with Duggan's name looming large.

Just over twenty minutes later, on a sweep past Doyle's position, Bodie saw that his partner was being followed by a man in a dark blue windcheater. He sent a single beep over the r/t, receiving nothing in return. Most likely, Doyle couldn't risk communication, although there was a slim chance he hadn't heard the beep.

Checking his rear view mirror, he saw Doyle turn into a side street. Bodie circled around, parked illegally, and set off on Doyle's trail. No sign of Doyle, or the man following him, on the side street. Bodie jogged down the street, briefly scanning branching streets and alleys, seeing nothing. But he caught a glimpse of dark blue, disappearing into an alleyway, halfway down another street. Bodie broke into a run.

Doyle was in the narrow alleyway, fighting with two men armed with knives. As Bodie approached, one man went down under Doyle's kick, but the other swerved and grabbed Doyle from behind, bearing him down. Bodie launched himself at him, wrenching the man's arm away from Doyle, and slamming it against the wall. The knife clattered as it struck cobblestone, and another blow put the man out of action for the duration.

Bodie turned back towards Doyle and found him already handcuffing the man in the blue windcheater to a street lamp. Dragging his man over to the lamp post, Bodie secured him as well. "Where'd the second man come from?"

"Door over there." Doyle hesitated a moment. "I heard the beep, so I was ready for the one bloke. Then this one jumped out." Another pause, while Doyle glanced away, then back at Bodie. "Thanks."

"You all right?" Bodie cast a quick look over him.

"Yeah. Duggan went in there." Doyle indicated the green door, recessed into the wall. It looked to be a private house.

"Let's go in, then."

"Ah." Doyle tilted his head to look at Bodie, eyes questioning.

Bodie met his gaze, then sighed. "I'll call it in." He pulled out his r/t while Doyle turned to test the door. Retrieving a small kit from his jacket pocket, Doyle set to work on the lock.

Bodie quickly finished his report, checked their prisoners one last time, and joined Doyle at the door. He leaned close to whisper in his ear. "Duggan's an explosives expert, are you sure you want to be doing that?"

Doyle shot him a filthy look, and pushed him away a little. Bodie grinned.

Within a minute the door was open. They drew their guns and entered silently, straining to hear any sound of movement within. They were in a small kitchen with a closed door to their left and another to their right. Bodie glanced at Doyle, then went to the left-hand door. Opening it, he found a walk-in larder. He joined Doyle at the right-hand door and they went through it in perfect formation, finding themselves in a hallway with more doors and a stairway to the left. They checked each of the rooms as quickly and as quietly as possible, finding nothing. Sweat beaded Bodie's neck at the continuing silence, as each room revealed only emptiness.

A minute creak sounded behind him, from the stairs. Bodie dove and whirled at the same time, knowing it was too late. Two shots rang out, and a bullet splintered the woodwork where his head had been. Then a body tumbled down the stairs, ending on the landing with its face up, blood welling from its chest. It wasn't Duggan. Bodie's pulse pounded in his throat. His eyes met Doyle's.

Doyle moved to the bottom of the stairs, covering, while Bodie started up them. All right, no question Doyle was good--would guard his back, as he guarded Doyle's. Still no reason to get carried away into permanency, was there?

There were three doors on the landing at the top of the stairs, all closed. Doyle came up alongside him, signalling him to go slowly with the door. Bodie rolled his eyes but nodded. He wasn't that much of a fool. He moved to the centre door and carefully eased it open.

Doyle saw it first. "Wire!"

Bodie jumped back and to the left, pulling Doyle just as Doyle pushed into him, sweeping them into a small space to the far side of the left-hand door. The centre door exploded out over the landing and the stairs, the noise blasting through them, pieces of wood and plaster falling on them and on the stairs.

Bodie instinctively tightened his grip on Doyle, pulling him close in a vain attempt to shield them both from the debris, pressing back as hard as he could into the wall. His face was buried in Doyle's hair, his arms wrapped around him, heart pounding sickeningly.

The roar died away, the silence that followed broken only by the final settling of pieces of wood. Bodie opened his eyes, still pressed tightly to Doyle. The first sight that greeted him was a pine needle, woven through a curl in Doyle's hair. He stared at it, fascinated.

Doyle spoke, his voice slicing through the ringing in Bodie's ears, mouth pressed close. "Cowley is going to kill us if Duggan's blown himself up."

Bodie started to shake. Doyle pulled away, and Bodie looked at him, seeing an echo of his own laughter flare in Doyle's eyes, the same gleam of an adrenaline high. His lips curved up, and Doyle's smile matched his.

A moment, and then Doyle gestured towards the remains of the centre door, and down the stairs to the body lying there. Bodie nodded, moving into position, his grip firm on his Walther. Doyle took a breath. "Bodie!" He plunged down the stairs, heedless of debris, crouching over the body at the bottom of the stairs.

Bodie waited. One, two, three seconds, and he saw the tip of a gun edge past the broken frame of the centre door, then a hand, followed by an arm. When Duggan's dark head appeared, Bodie lovingly placed the muzzle of his gun against it. Duggan froze.

"Boom. You blew it, Duggan."

From below he heard Doyle's groan and he grinned.

"Put the safety on," he ordered Duggan. "Carefully. Good lad. Now drop the gun." Duggan complied.

Doyle came up the stairs, two at a time. "Fancy meeting you here." With a flourish, he pulled out a second pair of handcuffs and secured Duggan. Doyle slanted a smile at Bodie.

Bodie rolled his eyes. "Yeah, all right. How long have you been waiting to spring the second pair on me?"

"Two months." Doyle's sedate voice was belied by the gleam in his eyes.

Bodie shook his head, suppressing a smile. He gestured for Doyle to precede him into the room Duggan had been hiding in.

They briefly searched the room, and the other two, then escorted Duggan down the stairs to the hallway. While Doyle made sure Duggan was secure, Bodie called in a report to HQ.

"Backup should've been here by now." Doyle began a routine search of Duggan.

"HQ said Farley and Burke are on their way."

"Oh, terrific. Ah, what have we here?" He stood, reading a paper from Duggan's pocket.

Bodie joined him, peering over his shoulder. "Looks like a list of targets."

"With names. Cowley will be pleased."

Bodie looked at Duggan, who was glaring at them. "Yeah. He might even let us play with Larry here, don't you think?"

"Oh yeah." Doyle turned his head. "Sirens."

"About time." Bodie started for the door, then impulsively reached out to ruffle Doyle's hair. He caught sight once again of the pine needle. Gently, he extracted it and held it up for Doyle's inspection.

"What's this, then? Surely not evidence of Christmas cheer?"

Doyle gazed at him, wide-eyed. "Well-known aphrodisiac, didn't you know that?" He passed Bodie, walking into the kitchen to peer out the door to the alley.

"Never needed one, did I?" Bodie joined him, staying by the door to the hallway to keep an eye on Duggan.

Doyle looked at him appraisingly. "Ah, never tried it, then."

"Of course not. Why should I?"

"No reason. It's not for the faint of...heart."

"I'll try anything you try."

Doyle smiled. "I shall keep that in mind. Petal."

They were interrupted by the arrival of Farley and Burke. The two senior agents looked around as they entered the kitchen.

"Need cooking lessons, children?" Burke deserved his name.

Bodie smiled without humour. "Already taken care of." He beckoned them into the hallway.

"Well, well, well." Bodie caught Doyle's eye at the imperfectly hidden astonishment in Burke's voice. Burke sauntered towards Duggan. "It was nice of you lads to give us an early Christmas pressie. I shall enjoy interrogating this one."

Beside him, Doyle stirred, but Bodie touched him lightly on the shoulder, before speaking to Burke. "That's for Cowley to decide of course."

"Of course." Burke nodded, exchanging a look with his partner.

"And, as I remember, you were certain that Duggan had left London. Was on his way to Birmingham, you said. Quite strongly, too."

"That was my information. He must've come back." Burke had lost his smile.

"Stupid was the word he used, wasn't it, Ray?"


"That's right. You said my partner was 'stupid' to think that Duggan was still in London."


"Who's stupid now, Burke? Eh?"

Another voice joined them. "Yes, indeed, who is?" Cowley limped into the hallway, looking around him with grim satisfaction. "Have you searched the premises yet?"

"Not completely, sir." Doyle handed the sheet of paper to Cowley. "But we found this on Duggan."

"Ah." He read over the list quickly. "Well done, both of you. Burke, Farley, you stay and search the house. Report anything you find to me, immediately. Doyle, Bodie, you'll return to HQ with me. You have a meeting to catch up with. Bring Duggan with you."

"Yes, sir."

"But, sir...." Burke faltered under Cowley's stare. "Duggan was our case. Sir."

"Then you should thank Bodie and Doyle for finishing it for you." He looked around. "I'll leave you to clean up here. Don't forget the gentlemen in the alley."

"Yes, sir." Burke turned towards the stairs, while Farley spoke into his r/t, ordering a forensic team and an ambulance.

Bodie exchanged a smirk with Doyle. They collected Duggan, escorting him out of the house and down the alley and street to the car. Cowley went ahead to his own car.

Doyle nudged Bodie. "You didn't believe Duggan was in London, either, you berk."

Bodie looked at him, wounded. "Of course I did. I always believe you."

Doyle grinned. "Liar."

They reached the car, and Bodie plucked a ticket off the windscreen, sighing, playing to Doyle's sniggering. They bundled Duggan into the back seat. Doyle moved to join Duggan, but Bodie stopped him with a touch on his arm.

"I do learn, Doyle."

Doyle studied him for a moment, and something seemed to relax in his face. "Yeah. Well. So do I."

Slowly, Bodie smiled. Maybe permanency had a role, after all. He gestured towards the back seat. "Well, go on then, son. We haven't got all day."

"Oi, who're you calling 'son'? Show some proper respect towards your elders." Doyle climbed into the back seat.

Bodie took his place in the driver's seat, and started the car. "That's why you need the pine needles, eh? Greybeard."

Silence from the back seat. And then Duggan spoke up for the first time. "Pine needles?"

"Shut up," Doyle said.

20 December 1976

"C'mon, Ray." Bodie pressed the buzzer a second time, keeping his thumb on it with Doylean dedication. That should do the trick.

"What the hell do you want?" Doyle's snarl was undiminished by the speaker.

"It's me."

"Of course it's you, who the fuck else would it be?" A pause, and then: "It's not work?"

Bodie grinned at the suspicion in Doyle's voice. They'd been on rotating twelves for a surveillance job for five nights. Tonight they were off, although there was always the possibility of being called in.

"No. Are you going to let me in?"

An eloquent sigh came through the speaker. "Yeah, all right. Push."

Bodie entered the building, hurrying down the hallway to Doyle's flat. He had it all lined up--two willing birds, him, and Doyle; they'd never tried doubling before. The only question was getting Doyle to go along with it. Stroppy bugger could decide either way. He'd given up predicting Doyle's behaviour, outside the job.

The door was open when he arrived at Doyle's flat, although there was no sign of Doyle. Closing the door and setting the locks, Bodie headed for Doyle's living room--only to be brought to a stop one step into the room.

"I don't believe it."

Doyle looked up from his task, sighing. "Go on, then. Get it out of your system."

Bodie walked slowly forward, admiring the large, full, unadorned Christmas tree that dominated the living room. Breathing deeply of the piney scent, Bodie walked all the way around the tree, stepping neatly over the fairy lights that Doyle was attempting to untangle. "Who're you trying to impress, then?" He glanced at Doyle, taking in the faded and patched jeans and the T-shirt that had bled in the wash.

"You, of course."

Bodie shook his head pityingly. "I didn't realise it was that bad, mate."

"I know I'll regret this. What's that bad?"

"Your libido--or lack thereof. Still, this amount should see you through the year, shouldn't it?" He ran his hand along one of the branches, showering the floor with pine needles.

"Oi! Watch that!" Doyle sniffed. "It'll see me through the week, of course." He slanted a look towards Bodie.

"You'd die of exhaustion, my son."

"But well satisfied."

"There is that."

Bodie stepped away from the tree, eyeing it critically. "You do realise it's crooked?"

"Part of its charm."

"A bent Christmas tree?"

"Goes with the needles."

Bodie wandered back to where Doyle sat and watched the deft fingers at work. "Here, you're going about that all wrong."


"Yeah. C'mon, shift over." Bodie removed his jacket, laying it over the sofa. He settled himself on the floor and started picking through the wires.

"Trained you about wires in the SAS, did they?"


Doyle stood up. "Well, in that case, I'll leave you to it."

Hands full of wires, Bodie looked up. "I've been conned, haven't I?"

"If you will walk into it. Do you want a cuppa?"

"I'd rather have whisky."

"You would." Doyle walked over to the drinks cabinet and pulled out a glass. "What brought you over, anyway?"

"Your sex life, of course."

"Of course." Doyle brought the glass to Bodie. "Wanted some lessons, did you? Is that why you're dressed like that?"

"Nah. Concern for your well-being, my son. Cheers." He drank a liberal amount of the whisky.

Doyle sat next to a box by the tree, and began unwrapping ornaments. "And what is it you have on your tiny mind?"

Bodie grinned. "A double-date. Tonight."

Doyle lifted his eyes to Bodie's face. "You and Barbara?"

"And you and...a beautiful girl named Diana." Bodie winked.

Doyle looked unenthusiastic.

"C'mon, Ray, you'll love her."

"In case it's escaped your notice, I don't need you setting up dates for me."

"Who said anything about need, eh? Although you have been a bit moody recently, now that I think about it."

"Goodbye, Bodie."

"Oh, come on. Favour to a mate, Ray."

"What's wrong with her?"

"You're a suspicious little devil, aren't you?"

"I'm partnered with you."

"You'll have the time of your life, I promise you."

Doyle reached for another box of ornaments.

"All right, all right. If you must know, she's visiting Barbara for a week and Barbara doesn't want to leave her alone."

"So go out with Barbara next week."

"I'll pay for the entire evening. Meal, drinks, the works."

"That'd be a bit obvious to the poor girl, wouldn't it?"

Bodie injected pathos into his voice. "Doyle, please--it's been five nights. I need my unconjugal conjugals."

"Yeah, and how many days has it been?"

"Ahh.... Three." Bodie smiled.

Doyle shook his head. "I'll think about it."


"You're supposed to be untangling lights, you know."

"Nearly done." Bodie gestured proudly to the neatly separated wires.

"And then you can put them on the tree."

"Of course."

"You are desperate." The faint beeping of an r/t brought Doyle to his feet. "Damn." He hurried out of the room.

"Tell them we're otherwise engaged!" Knowing how CI5 worked, Bodie placed the fairy lights on the floor and went in search of a flask. No sense in wasting the opportunity to drink surprisingly good scotch.

Doyle appeared a few minutes later, strapping on his shoulder holster. "We're on. Are you carrying?"

"Yeah. Where?"

Doyle grimaced. "Same as before. You're going to have to change, Beau. And what're you doing with that?" He pointed to the flask Bodie was filling.

"Just bringing some pre-Christmas cheer with us."


"For after the job. You remember how cold it was yesterday morning!"

"Add a bottle of scotch--excellent scotch--to the bribe, then." Doyle turned towards the kitchen.

Bodie sighed. "Where're you going?"

"Bringing a thermos of tea as well."

While Doyle was busy in the kitchen, Bodie rang Barbara to give her the bad news and to charm her into tentatively rescheduling for the following evening--Cowley and Doyle willing. After ringing off, he went out to his car and retrieved a bag with a change of clothes. Doyle would already fit in with their surroundings on the surveillance job--sloppy sod. Back in the flat, he quickly changed into worn trousers, a threadbare shirt and tattered jacket.

"Did she fall for your act?" Doyle's voice carried from the kitchen.

"What act? She knows I'll keep all of my promises."

"I do wonder where you find them, mate."

"Some of us don't have to go looking. Why're we on, anyway?"

"Burke didn't show. Rather than leave Anson on his own, the Cow called us in."

"Oh, joy. Where's Burke, then?"

"No one knows." Doyle came back into the room, carrying a thermos and a bag. He hefted the bag for Bodie to see. "Sandwiches."

"Good lad." Bodie slipped the flask into a pocket of his jacket. "Has the Cow sent Anson to find him?"

"I didn't ask. You can radio in, if you'd like." Doyle ushered Bodie out of the flat, locking up afterwards.

"No, thank you. I have a very well-developed sense of self-preservation."

"Wise lad. It's like begging for scraps from his table, isn't it? I still don't understand why he won't tell us what the surveillance job is all about!"

Bodie reached the outside door first, opened it, and gestured Doyle to precede him. "Yes, so you've said before. I want to know why we have to fill in for Burke."

Doyle walked around to the passenger side of Bodie's car. "We know the case."

"Yeah, but why put Burke on it in the first place?" Bodie unlocked the car door, climbed in and opened Doyle's door. "Should've left him in files if he's going to be this useless."

"He's been all right."

Bodie started the car, then moved out into traffic. "Since when are you so tolerant? You're usually the first to give someone a rocket."

"He just needs some time to adjust."

"Until when? One of us dies?"

Doyle glared at him. "He's a good agent."

Bodie shook his head. "You're singing a different tune."

"When has he screwed up?"

"He was slow at the Talbot op."

"That was miscommunication with Anson."


"Yeah? And how long did it take you and me to start working well together? And we weren't adjusting to losing a partner."

"That's exactly the problem--his mind is on Farley and what he's going through. He keeps bringing his name up in the rest room, and on ops, as if...."

"As if--what? As if he's alive? You want him to act like Farley's dead?"

Bodie set his jaw. "He acts as if Farley's not off the Squad. He's paralysed. He won't be coming back."

"Burke knows that. You can't blame him for missing his partner."

"He's got a new partner."

"As easy as that, eh? Off with the old, on with the new."

"He's got a job to do, just like the rest of us."

"And it didn't affect you at all, did it? The way Farley was paralysed?"

Bodie shrugged. "Luck of the draw."

Doyle looked out the window. "Yeah. I'll remember that when it's my draw."

"It won't happen to you."

"Oh, and why's that?" Doyle glared at him.

"Because I'm better than Burke ever was. It won't happen to me, either."

Doyle gave a half-laugh and shook his head. "You're daft."

"No. I'm careful. Mind you, not much chance of any excitement on this job, is there?"

"Bloody surveillance. I wouldn't mind it so much if we just knew who the hell we were watching!"

A much safer topic--sometimes Bodie was grateful for Doyle's one-track mind. "Cowley knows."

"Yeah, fine, but what's the good of that? How can we judge the situation accurately if we don't know what it's about? It's insane."

"Do you want to tell him that?"

Doyle shook his head. "Isn't this where we came in?"

"You know that Cowley only tells us what he wants to tell us. So we do the job and he understands the big picture."

"And that doesn't bother you. Well, it wouldn't, would it? Just another job, isn't it?"

Bodie nodded. "That's right."

"Yes, sir, no, sir, absolutely no questions, sir."

"Better than brooding over it."

"I don't like surprises. I don't like not knowing what I'm getting involved in."

"And you waste energy on it."

"Oh yeah, now what was it you said to me? 'Stay cool'. There's a difference between cool and cold, you know."

"All right, how about this? 'Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence'."

Doyle turned to stare at him. "You can't be serious."

Bodie grinned.

Doyle slouched back into his seat. "And, anyway, all I want to know is what we're supposed to be doing on this job. That's not too much to ask, is it?"

Bodie snorted. "It's amazing you weren't drowned at birth."

Doyle's voice was flat. "You'll have to ask my mum about that."

Bodie's curiosity, already kindled where Doyle was concerned, flared anew. Well aware of certain facts about Doyle--he'd been with the Drugs Squad, he preferred strawberry ice cream, he liked classic cars and bikes, he detested vinegar on his chips--he didn't know why Doyle thought the way he did, or what had shaped him. Experience, however, had taught Bodie how and when to question him about the past, and now was not the time. Later, when Doyle was more relaxed, when he wasn't expecting an assault on his barriers, he'd try.

They arrived at the site of their current base for surveillance, parking two streets over. The building they were set up in was an abandoned hotel, now home to a diverse group of squatters. In general, the residents minded their own business. Bodie and Doyle made their way to the room CI5 was using, relieved the agents on duty, and settled in for another twelve hours of tedium.

Laura Smith lived in a two-room flat across the street, seeming to mind her own business as much as the squatters did. Each day, she left her flat at 0800, bought a copy of the Times, returned to her flat and read it. She ate breakfast, liked sugar in her tea, never rang anyone on the telephone, and rarely ventured from the flat later in the day, except for trips to buy food. She spent her time reading and watching the telly--Coronation Street was a favourite. By 2200 she was in bed, lights out. The routine was mind-numbingly boring, but carefully noted down by successive CI5 teams.

Bodie hated it. He hated every excruciating minute of it. The only thing that made it bearable was the knowledge that, because of Cowley's reticence, Doyle hated it even more. He'd discovered he had immense reserves of patience when Doyle could be baited. The only diversion for either of them was the game of who would break first. That, and talking.

Doyle liked to talk; he could go on at length about the job, CI5, or the state of the world as he saw it. But he rarely said anything to satisfy the curiosity that burned in Bodie. Over a year as partners and he still didn't understand Doyle, still knew little more about his past than a general background and tales of My Days as a Copper or My Days as an Art Student. That Doyle knew as little about him was a given, but Bodie was used to knowing more about others than they knew about him. It was aggravating that Doyle was the exception. And he had the uncomfortable suspicion that he'd said more to Doyle about his own past than he'd intended.

They took the watch in two-hour shifts, Doyle manning the binoculars first, Bodie writing down anything of interest. Their orders were to observe only, absolutely no contact with Laura Smith, and limited contact with HQ while they were on the job.

After the first changeover, Doyle dug out the sandwiches and they ate, as evening twilight gave way to darkness, the only illumination in the room coming from the street. Gradually, Bodie identified the elusive feeling that coiled through him: contentment. This, despite the impatience to be doing rather than observing. He traded stories with Doyle: Africa met by the streets of London. Doyle's voice was a part of the fabric of his life now. And he waited until the intimacy of darkness and shared food and memories gave him the opportunity to probe.

"I wouldn't have reckoned you for a Christmas tree man, Doyle."

"Oh?" Doyle took a noisy slurp of his tea.

"Well, doesn't exactly go with the image, does it? You weren't the cheeriest bloke last Christmas, as I remember."

"We were working last Christmas. It rained. And we were in it."

"I remember you nearly took my head off when all I did was wish you a happy Christmas."

"You were covered with mud at the time, dripping with it. And you were overly enthusiastic."

"The spirit of the season. That's just my point--you haven't got it. So why a tree?"

When there was no immediate answer, Bodie glanced towards Doyle, seeing only his outline in the half-light. He waited. It could go either way now.

"My mum promised me once that I'd always have a tree."

Bodie smiled to himself. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. I was eight at the time, and it'd been a rough year. My dad was out of work, drinking, and there wasn't much to look forward to at Christmas. Still, being a kid, I thought it'd work out, I mean it was Christmas time, wasn't it? The time of miracles? But each day went by and still no tree, still no talk of Christmas, just the same arguments and...well, it was all just the same. Christmas Eve came and I reckoned it was time to face facts. I can still remember looking out my bedroom window--rain was falling that Christmas too--and I knew there wouldn't be any Christmas for us the next morning."

Doyle fell silent and Bodie forced himself to wait. Doyle often responded best to silence.

Doyle poured more tea into his cup. "Want some?"

"No, thanks." He heard Doyle screwing the lid of the thermos back on and settling onto the mattress that was the only other piece of furniture in the flat, besides the chair.

"I had some money--not much, just a little that I'd managed to collect from doing odd jobs and that. I'd used it up on a couple of presents. Cheap stuff. Bought some perfume for my mum--well, I thought it was wonderful. For my dad I'd got a pen knife, to replace the one I'd broken. And I'd paid the grandmother of a friend of mine to mend Sally's doll. She thought she'd lost it. She loved the silly thing, even if it was falling to pieces. I wanted to surprise her."

"Sally?" Bodie held his breath.

"My sister. Younger sister."

"You never mentioned a sister before."

"She died when I was thirteen." Doyle shifted on the mattress. "Anyway, I thought that I could at least put the presents on the kitchen table. It'd be a surprise for them. So I got up early to do that, and I crept down to the kitchen."

"And you found a Christmas tree."

"Know the story, do you?"

"Your mum?"

"Yeah, my mum. It wasn't much of a tree, really, but it was there on the table. Fairy lights and everything. She scolded me for not believing."

"That's when she told you you'd always have one?"

"Yeah. It was the one thing she stood up to my dad about. You have to have a proper Christmas, she'd say."

"So now you keep up the tradition."

"I reckon that's one promise that'll be kept."

"You'll be off one of these years--can go spend Christmas with your mum."

Doyle gave a sharp laugh. "Not likely. I haven't seen her in over ten years. I don't get along with the bastard she married."


Doyle shrugged. "When my dad died, I thought she'd be free of it. But she got herself right back into the same kind of relationship. Her choice." He put his cup down and stood up. "You finished with the food?"

"Yeah." Bodie listened to the sounds of Doyle cleaning up their dinner. Stubborn idealism. Keeping to the letter of a promise that had been broken in substance long ago. Typical. "Doyle?"


"Did your sister like her doll?"

A moment's hesitation, then Doyle's quiet voice. "Yeah. She loved it."

Quiet settled upon them, easy and oddly secure. He'd always had the knack of not needing to talk, but it was rare to find it in another. Once, he'd thought Doyle incapable of it. A lot had changed in a year.

A while later, Doyle replaced him at the window and Bodie went out to relieve himself. Eight more hours to go. Coming back into the room, he stopped when he saw the expression on Doyle's face as he spoke into the r/t.

"Yeah. Thanks." Doyle closed the connection and glanced at Bodie, before returning his attention to Smith's flat.

"What?" If HQ had contacted them, it was serious.

"They found Burke."


"He was at Farley's place. Farley's dead."

"Christ. And Burke?"

"Coming off a monumental drunk. He's fine."

"Is he? What happened?"

"Suicide. The gist of it is, Farley invited Burke over, they got drunk, and Burke passed out. Farley then found Burke's gun and killed himself."

"They're certain?"

"They found a letter from Farley, explaining his intention."

"That poor bastard."

"Farley? Or Burke?"

"Both, I reckon."

"They're both fools, you mean." Doyle's voice was hard. "And there I was defending Burke to you tonight."

Bodie stayed silent, unwilling to discuss it.

"Suicide's not the answer. Farley still had his life, dammit."

"As what? An invalid? Maybe it wasn't enough."

"What do you mean?" Doyle turned towards him, eyes narrowed.

"Stay with the job."

"I am!" Doyle was back on the binoculars. "You reckon he's better off dead?"

Why hadn't he held his tongue? Bodie sighed. "Look, all I'm saying is that I understand what Farley must've been feeling. To go from this to that. We aren't the sort for that kind of life, Doyle."

"So you fight it. Do what you can to beat it. You don't just throw it all away."

"Maybe he saw it as going out on his own terms."

"That's how you see it? That's the coward's way--refusing to play because of the cards you're dealt."

"It's knowing when to fold."

"Bollocks, you--" His voice broke off, and then changed in tone completely. "Something's happening over there. Get the camera."

Bodie brought it to him, taking over the binoculars while Doyle primed the camera. "A visitor, eh? Wonder who he is?"

"I wish he'd come into the light, he looks familiar." Doyle began clicking the camera, using the telephoto lens.

Bodie caught a good look at the visitor. "Bloody hell. That's Sherburne, isn't it? Home Sec's office?"

"Odd place for him to be, wouldn't you say?"

"Yes. They don't look very pleased to see each other, do they? Now who's this?" A car had pulled up to the kerb. Bodie watched as four men climbed out and hurried into Smith's building. "What's MI6 doing here? That's Willis!"

"What the fuck's going on?"

"Nothing good, you can count on that." They watched as Laura Smith opened the door to Willis, stepping back to allow entrance to him and his men. It was clear Sherburne was angry, gesturing from Smith to Willis. And then the men with Willis grabbed Sherburne as he lunged for the director of MI6, dragging him away and subduing him. Laura Smith stayed in the background, her body telegraphing tension. Willis spoke to her, she shook her head, then spoke urgently. He moved close to her, said something more, and he slapped her. She fell.

"Bastard." Doyle continued to shoot with the camera, his hands steady even if his voice wasn't.

"We can't interfere." Bodie warned him.

"I bloody well know that!"

Across the street, Smith pulled herself to her feet, nodded, and disappeared from view.

Bodie caught something out of the corner of his eye, and looked down towards the street. "Bloody hell."

"What?" Doyle followed Bodie's gaze. "Shit."

Bodie watched as four policemen entered their building. "Do you think--"

Doyle interrupted him. "It's a raid. They're going to clear out the building. Cowley won't thank us if we lose these pictures."

"Are they working with Willis?" Bodie dismantled the stand that held the binoculars, packing them both into a hold-all.

"Could be. It's routine enough, but the timing...best not to take any chance. It'd be too easy for this film to go astray. Assuming it's important." Doyle stuffed the camera and lens into the bag he'd brought the sandwiches in.

"Safe assumption."

They left the room, running down the hallway to the back stairs, hearing the echoes of police orders and angry protests. They reached the stairs and started down them, only to be brought up short after one flight, hearing voices and footsteps approaching from below. They exited into the hallway, moving quickly into a room at the end. It was empty. Bodie went across to the window. There was a drop, but it was manageable, and it wasn't onto the street. He opened the window and peered out. A copper stood below the window.

"Patrolling the perimeter," Doyle whispered into his ear. "He'll be covering both side and back. We'll have to time it right."

In the hallway, they heard voices and then pounding on doors. There wasn't time to wait.

"We can't stay here. They'll search the room." Doyle looked around, seeking inspiration.

"Unless they find what they're looking for."

Doyle eyed him. "What do you have in mind?"

Bodie was reaching for the flask of scotch in his pocket. "You, my son, are drunk." He poured some of the scotch over Doyle's shirt and jacket. "Open up."

"Dammit, that's good scotch. I--" Bodie poured the whisky into Doyle's mouth, and Doyle choked.

"Ssh. Here they come. Convince them they don't want to search this room."

Doyle glared poisonously at him, but he handed over the bag with the camera, his gun and ID, just as the police reached their room, demanding entrance. Bodie pressed against the wall behind the door as, with a flourish, Doyle flung open the door. Doyle greeted the coppers with drunken glee and staggered out of the room.

"What is it, Jack?" A voice further down the hall.

"Just a drunk--get off me, you bastard!" Bodie winced as Doyle was pushed hard against the wall. Then he held still as the copper took a step into the room. "Nothing else in there." The copper closed the door.

"Well, send him on down and get a move on. You know the orders."

"Yeah. C'mere, you." Bodie heard the voices retreating, Doyle's loud protestations fading as he was dragged away.

Bodie crossed to the window, noiselessly opened it, and waited until the policeman stationed below rounded the corner, out of sight. He slipped out through the window, lowering himself to the ground. He made his way quickly to where they had parked the car, dumping everything into the boot. Then he went back for Doyle.

The scene at the abandoned hotel was chaotic. Bodie eased his way through a gathering crowd of onlookers, searching for Doyle. He finally located him being escorted by a man in plain clothes who wasn't overly concerned for Doyle's comfort. Catching a flash of light on metal, Bodie saw that the man accompanying Doyle carried a gun. He wasn't a copper, then. Bodie followed as the man forced Doyle to a side street and to a car waiting there. As the man shoved Doyle into the back seat, Bodie approached from behind, taking the man out with an efficient blow, and catching the gun as it fell. Doyle slowly climbed out of the car, swearing under his breath. Bodie, seeing his difficulty, put a supportive arm around him, but was pushed off with a muttered grumble. They hurried away, taking a circuitous route to get back to their car. No one followed them.

Unlocking the car, Bodie's eyes ran quickly over Doyle. "You all right?"

"Yeah. Just a little friendly persuasion. That was one of Willis' men." Doyle climbed into the car.

"Did they recognise you?" Bodie started the engine.

"No, don't think so. Did you see what happened?"

Doyle's tone brought Bodie's head around. "No. What?"

"She killed herself."

"Christ." Bodie drove towards HQ. "Why?"

"They'd pulled me out of the building--put me with some of the others they had questions about. I reckon the police were working in conjunction with Willis. Without knowing anything about it, as usual."

Knowing how Doyle could go on about the way the security agencies wilfully kept the police in the dark, Bodie interrupted. "What happened?"

"I'm getting to that. They'd already brought Sherburne out, had him in a car and whisked away as quickly as possible. Willis was approaching us when Smith ran to him. 'What about my family?' she said. Willis just looked at her, and said: 'They're safe. You just keep co-operating.' And he walked away, towards us. She stared at him, and suddenly she had a gun in her hand, pointing at Willis. We all leapt towards her--Willis' men, me, the police. She smiled. And then she shot herself in the head. By the time I got to her, she was dead."

"Gave yourself away, didn't you? Not your typical drunk."

Doyle shrugged, and his voice turned flat. "Yeah, I gave myself away."

Reluctance to get into it made Bodie abrupt. "It was her choice."

"And who pushed her into it? Who was she?"

"Why do you need to know? Leave it, Ray. You're sure they didn't connect you with CI5?"

"No, no time. They were taking me away when you dropped by so opportunely."

"Don't mention it."

"No, I won't."

"Thanks, I mean."

"Luck of the draw, wasn't it?"

Bodie looked at Doyle, who gazed back at him. "Okay. But sometimes you stack the deck."

At HQ they reported in, turning over the film and equipment, and were told to wait until Cowley wanted them. They went to the rest room for food, tea, and gossip. Several members of the Squad were there, the result of multiple ongoing ops. No one mentioned Farley or Burke.

A little over an hour later, Cowley summoned them to his office. He was clearly pleased with the photos, and with their account. As a result, they were given the next two days off.

Escaping towards the door, Bodie was dismayed to hear Doyle speak to Cowley, at his most aggressive.

"Who was she?"

"Who was whom, Doyle?" Cowley peered over his glasses at Doyle. Their photos were spread out in front of him on the desk.

"Laura Smith. The woman who killed herself, in case you've forgotten."

Bodie winced, then moved quickly towards Doyle. If he cocked up their leave....

"I do remember, thank you." Cowley's voice was chilly. He leaned back in his chair, taking off his glasses. "You've taken an interest in her, have you?"

"Yeah. Well, watching a girl for five nights will do that to you."

"I see. And what if I told you she was none of your concern?"

"With all due respect, sir, that's for me to say."

Bodie put his hand on Doyle's arm and was shrugged off.

"I'll tell you who to be concerned about, Doyle, and who to leave alone. However, be that as it may, in this case I have little to add to your knowledge. She was a pawn, pure and simple, in a very dangerous and nasty game."

"Was her name really Laura Smith?"

"I very much doubt it."

"She asked Willis about her family."

"Willis is well known for using everything at his disposal to accomplish his ends."

"And Sherburne?"

"Was apparently selling his loyalties. That information, gentlemen, does not leave these walls."

"What will happen to him?" Bodie entered the conversation.

Cowley smiled. "That depends. Suffice it to say that these photos will help me to have a hand in that. It's best not to leave Willis to deal with everything on his own."

"And that's why you sent us in?" Doyle stared hard at Cowley.

"I heard a rumour, a whisper of something big, involving Miss Smith and MI6. Nothing more. I prefer to keep an eye on the activities of MI6 when they choose to operate in this country. For what it's worth, I don't approve of Willis' methods. Now, if you don't mind, gentlemen?"

Bodie tugged on Doyle's sleeve, meeting resistance at first, before Doyle allowed himself to be ushered from Cowley's office. Neither said anything until they were once again in Bodie's car, driving towards Doyle's flat. Doyle broke the silence.

"She killed herself to prevent her family--wherever they are--from being used against her again."

"It seems likely." Bodie kept his tone neutral.

"It's a dirty business."

"Be glad you're not in it."

"Aren't we?"

Bodie shook his head. "You'd have stopped her if you could. Willis wouldn't have."

"And Cowley?"

"You heard him."

Doyle was silent, gazing out the side window.

Without understanding why, Bodie pursued it. "CI5 isn't MI6, Ray. You know that."

"Yeah. Maybe." After a long pause, he added: "I trust Cowley."

"And when you can't trust him, there's still me."

Doyle's head turned. "Like Farley trusted Burke."

Bodie's lips tightened.

"Tell me the truth, Bodie. Do you think Burke helped him? That he knew what Farley planned and gave him the opportunity?"

"Only Burke knows that."

"Would you think better of him, then? Doing what his partner wanted?"


Doyle spoke in a low voice. "I'm not letting you go like that. You might as well know that now. I don't give a damn what you want."

Bodie felt something twist inside him, warmth following in its wake. "I always said you were a selfish bastard."

"I'm serious, Bodie."

Bodie's voice softened. "Yeah. I know you are. Cuts both ways, you know."

Doyle turned away. "Good. So, about this double-date...."

"Decided to trust me, have you?"

"Not in everything. Are you coming in to finish with the tree?"

"Of course. It's a two-man job. You'll love her, Ray."

"You already said that."

"Yes, but I haven't told you the best bit yet."

Doyle sighed. "What?"

"She's a gymnast." Bodie winked at him.

21 December 1977

"C'mon Ray." Doyle was the only chance Bodie had to get out of this. The odds were against Doyle finding him in time but, ever a gambler, he was betting everything on it. He'd already blown his one chance for escape. All he could do now was wait, and hope.

Mallory's men were making sure this time--they'd handcuffed his hands behind him and bound his ankles with duct tape. He lay on his side in the dark cellar, helpless, trying not to think about the growing numbness in his hands. He reckoned he was spending his third night as a prisoner, but he couldn't be sure. They had fed him once and brought water twice. After he'd tried to escape, they'd beaten him again, leaving off only when called away by Mallory. He might be gambling on Doyle, but it was a sure bet Mallory and his men would be back.

He resisted the urge to move, and grimly fought down his rising panic about being trapped. About being useless.

Doyle would be searching for him. If it had been three days, then he was finally overdue for his check-in. Doyle, however, didn't know about this house. Bodie hadn't thought it worth mentioning.

The cellar stank of dust, mould and mice. He hated the dark. Hated being bound. Hated having to wait while others decided his fate.

It wasn't like the Congo. But, when he slept, the memories stirred, and once again he'd hear Planget's mad whispers in the darkness of their cell, and Nkazi's endless questions with no answers. He'd jerk awake, confused and shaken, and he'd force himself to remember--to believe--that it wasn't 1969, that he'd survived and moved on. He'd banished those ghosts long ago.

What the fuck was Mallory doing, faffing around like this? Was he trying to bargain with Cowley, to buy himself time now that he knew CI5 was onto him? Yeah, he could just see Mallory and Cowley: two old lions circling each other, grey eyes matched with blue. Mallory would soon know that it'd be useless, and he'd salvage what he could from the situation. Bodie would be questioned again, more forcefully, and then he'd become intimately acquainted with a bullet.

Or it was always possible Mallory might sell him to the highest bidder. A CI5 agent was worth quite a lot in certain markets. He had no illusions about the likely outcome of that--Cowley would find out. And then, if all else failed, he'd become just as intimately acquainted with a sniper's bullet.

Doyle wouldn't approve. It wouldn't give him a chance to point out, at great length, all the idiotic mistakes Bodie had made on this op. Starting with volunteering to use his old contacts to go undercover in the first place, and finishing with his miscalculation of Eddie Malone's greed.

It wouldn't do any good to point out to Doyle that the op had been a success up until three days ago. Of course, if he ended up dead, then Doyle might well have some justification for his misgivings. He hated it when Doyle was right.

"C'mon, Doyle."

Undercover work was highly overrated--unless it featured a suite at the Dorchester. And a beautiful bird to seduce--or man, for that matter. He wasn't fussy. Next time, he was keeping his mouth shut; he wasn't going to volunteer past associates. Especially not double-dealing, weasel-faced bastards like Malone. That would be the second item of business when he got out. The first would be a long, hot, cleansing shower.

It had to be the third night, maybe even morning by now. He'd seen darkness out the window before they'd dragged him back to the cellar--how long ago? Three hours? Four? No sounds from above for a very long time. Maybe they'd cleared out, forgotten about him. Yeah, and maybe Mallory had turned himself in to Cowley. Running guns and explosives to some very dubious clients called for a good, if selective, memory. No, Mallory hadn't forgotten him.

As if in echo to his thoughts, he heard footsteps again, crossing the floor above him. At least two sets, possibly more.

His only consolation was that he'd disrupted Mallory's communications thoroughly enough that he wouldn't be able to make good on his shipments to several groups. He'd be scrambling now, and if he escaped Cowley's net then at least he'd be out of England. And if he came back...well, both Doyle and Cowley had long memories.

Yeah, Doyle would go after Mallory. He'd hate it that he hadn't got here in time, if it came to that. It was odd to feel such security in the face of his own death. To know that someone would come after and clean up the mess, dig the rot out, because of him. The SAS looked after their own, but, once an op was finished, they moved on. Soldier mentality. Doyle wouldn't move on, not until he'd brought the whole lot of them to justice.

And that was why he found himself still believing that Doyle might come in time, despite the odds. Stoic acceptance was his way, not Doyle's.

It was a strange thing, this blind hope. Somehow it had crept in under his guard, undermining hard-won pragmatism. He knew very well who to blame. When had Doyle got under his skin? He couldn't understand it--he had a better sense of self-preservation than that. A testy sod at the best of times, Doyle could, by turns, be aloof or attentive, ruthless or kind. He could turn on a friend one minute, and the next be the only one to defend him. And, somehow, he'd just got used to Doyle. He'd got used to having his back watched and his best interests looked out for. Doyle had proven it time and again, hadn't he? Hell, he liked the bloody idealistic fool.

Even here he conjured the memory, sometimes: And if I had shot, from the door. And missed. Who was standing in the window?

Doyle would tear more than a strip off him, if he got out of this. Ray wasn't the least bit subtle.

Suddenly alert, he heard someone descending the stairs to his prison. At last--one way or the other. It was better than waiting.

The door was flung open, light rushing in with punishing speed and brightness. He squinted against it, trying to make out the figure standing there, a black shadow in the centre of illumination.

"You stupid, irresponsible bastard."

And, as quickly as that, astonishingly, desire jolted through his blood, ignited by the sight of a familiar lean figure outlined by brilliant light. He wanted that leanness, was pulled to it with an intensity that shocked him. Bewildered, relieved, and aching, he could only blink, and stare, a smile slowly dawning on his lips.

"Don't give me that." Doyle moved towards him. "You're lucky I showed up at all."

Bodie coughed to clear his throat. "Took your time, didn't you?"

Doyle reached him, checking the handcuffs before moving on to the tape. "Yeah, well, I thought you were enjoying your holiday. No work, solitude, lounging around in the dark." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his Swiss army knife, and set to work on the tape. The gentleness of Doyle's touch was in direct contrast to his voice. Bodie basked in both.

"Very considerate of you, mate. Where's Mallory?"

"With Cowley, I should think." Doyle looked around as someone else came down the cellar steps. "Is that you, Jax?"

"Yes--did you find Bodie?" Jax appeared in the doorway.

"As you can see. Go and get the cutters, all right? And an ambulance."

"I don't need an ambulance."

"Right." Jax disappeared back up the stairs.


"Shut up." Doyle leaned in close to him. "It's standard procedure and you know it. How badly are you hurt?" He returned to sawing through the tape.

"Nothing to speak of."

"Then they'll clean you up, shoot you full of something and send you home. Or would you like to complain and slow everything down?"

"No, miss."

"I do have a knife, you know." The tape gave way. "There. Take it slowly."

Bodie gingerly flexed his legs, wincing at the sting in his muscles and nerves. He desperately needed his arms released, and he dreaded it.

"Made a mess of yourself, haven't you?"

Bodie glared at him. "Must you state the obvious?"

Doyle grinned. "Just making conversation."

"What day is it, anyway?"

"The twenty-first."

"Yeah? What's the time?"

"Around seven. Morning."

Early morning on the fourth day--Doyle had been very efficient. He nudged Doyle with his leg. "Thanks, mate."

Doyle glanced at him, opening his mouth as if to speak, but then he looked away.

They heard the sound of Jax returning. Doyle rose to his feet, and met him at the door.

"The ambulance is on its way." Jax came into the room. "Do you want me to do the cutting while you brace him?"

"Yeah." Doyle returned and knelt beside Bodie.

It didn't take long. Doyle helped him to ease his arms back into proper position. The pain hit almost immediately, and he wasn't aware of much of anything else after that. He worked his way through the street vocabulary of Afrikaans, Arabic, Irish, and finally Scouse, before the ambulance crew showed up. Much to his disgust, Bodie was bundled off to hospital, with Doyle maliciously telling him to be a good lad or he wouldn't bring him a change of clothing.

At the hospital, they did exactly as Doyle had predicted: cleaned him up, shot him up, and eventually sent him on his way. The damage was minor, the worst of it being his arms and hands. The pain gradually subsided, but movement revived it, and he was frustratingly clumsy and uncoordinated when he tried to use his hands. He did at least manage the shower, however. Doyle showed up as he finished, bringing his clothes and word from Cowley.

"He's having fun with Mallory--wants you in at eight tomorrow morning."

Bodie, attempting to button his shirt, groaned. Doyle looked unsympathetic, but he moved forward and finished the buttoning himself.

"You're lucky he's not having you dance to his tune tonight."

"Even the Cow has a merciful streak. Buried deep." Bodie finished dressing, then followed Doyle out to his car. The sun had set, taking the meagre warmth of the day with it. An entire day that he'd missed in hospital. Tiny flurries, more ice than snow, travelled the wind, stinging his face. Bodie huddled into his jacket and hurried after Doyle to the car park. At the car, Doyle opened the door for him and he settled into the passenger seat with a sigh.

"Tired?" Doyle looked him over as he started the engine.

"Yes. Where are you taking me?"

"Your place." Doyle merged smoothly into the traffic. "Why?"

"I'm hungry."

"Didn't they feed you on your holiday?"

"Very poor accommodations. I intend to write a letter."

"Well, you will get what you pay for. Do you want to go to the pub? Or to my place?"

"Your place, if you'll have the heat on. Quickly, James." He then had an unwelcome thought. "You do have food in, don't you?"

"Of course. Bit of this and that."

Bodie rolled his head to look at him. "A bit of what and what?"

"Um--yoghurt. Salad. Oh, and mushrooms!"

"Ray, I'm starving."

"And eggs, bacon, tomatoes...."

"That's more like it." He settled back again, content to drift, to soak up the reality of being out of that bloody cellar. But that thought brought with it the memory of Doyle standing in the doorway. His exhaustion was no protection from the prickling of desire in his belly.

Doyle's hands were on the steering wheel--elegant, competent fingers, he knew both their strength and their gentleness. He wanted to feel them on his skin. He eyed Doyle's long legs, clad in jeans as usual, muscles smoothly extending and contracting as Doyle worked the pedals. Always aware of Doyle's attractiveness, of the air of sensuality that surrounded him, he'd never allowed it to distract him. Never allowed himself to focus on it, on what they might make each other experience. Now, he couldn't banish the feeling bubbling within him. It was rather like the anticipation of Christmas when he was a child--the same mixture of desire and dread and confusion. He was well aware the results could be just as disastrous. It only added to the allure.

They arrived at Doyle's block of flats, forced to park three streets away and to walk back. Doyle let them both into his flat, then went straight through to the kitchen. Bodie paused in the living room, stopped by the sight of a half-decorated Christmas tree. The lights were on the tree, along with several ornaments, while others still lay in their boxes, wrapped in tissue.

"I see you have this year's offering to the Goddess of Sex."

Doyle's voice came from the kitchen. "I had to do something while you were off hobnobbing with old friends."

The lecture would be trotted out any moment, now. With this much delay, it'd be memorable. Reckoning he might as well get it over with--Doyle, after all, deserved some recompense for a timely rescue--Bodie wandered into the kitchen. Doyle already had the frying pan out, and the bacon had started to sizzle in it, producing a mouth-watering aroma.

"How many eggs do you want?"

"Three." He moved in close behind Doyle, the better to observe the proceedings, but was sent away with a tart demand to give a bloke some room. He retreated to the table, taking a seat, then waiting with saintly meekness for Doyle to start the flaying.

Doyle busied himself with the cooking.

Bodie frowned, then took advantage. "Fried bread, too, please."

"If you like." Doyle turned the bacon, then reached for the eggs. Silence.

Obscurely disappointed, he tried another tack. "Your tree is bent again."

"It's traditional."

"Whose tradition?"

Doyle glanced at him, face grave. "The Navy's, of course." He turned back to the cooker.

Bodie snorted. He reached out to fiddle with the salt cellar, testing the stiffness in his fingers. His hands were getting better but he'd be useless in a gunfight just now. He set the salt cellar aside.

"Are you going to be able to manage a knife and fork?"

Bodie's look of reproach was wasted on Doyle's back as he rummaged in the cupboard. "Of course."

Doyle pulled out two plates and set them next to the cooker. Then he brought knives and forks to the table, before returning and filling the plates with food.

"Tuck yourself into that, then."

Bodie did, managing fairly well with the cutlery. He glanced over at Doyle and saw he was eating with singular dedication. Bodie detested waiting on the block. "Anything new at HQ? Any good gossip that I missed?"

Doyle chewed while he thought about it. "No." He sliced through a tomato.

"What about the Pearson op?"

"Same as before."

"Jax was working on the Pearson op."

"So he was."

Bodie put down his knife and fork. "For Christ's sake. All right, I give up."

Doyle looked at him inquiringly.

"Look, if you want to yell at me, just do it. Don't drag it out."

"Why should I want to do that?" Doyle returned to his food.

"Because you're a self-righteous little prick, that's why. C'mon, Doyle, I want to enjoy my meal, is that too much to ask? It's been a bloody bad three days."

Doyle eyed him for a long moment. "You delivered Mallory and all his contacts to Cowley. He's very happy with you."

"What about you?"

"Me?" Doyle finished his food and sat back.

Stubborn, irritating, annoying little git. "You were against the plan from the beginning."

"It ended all right, it got the results we needed."

"Oh, and since when is that enough to satisfy you?"

Doyle shrugged.

"So that's it--nothing more to say. You're satisfied."

A slight pause. "Reasonably." Doyle's eyes were cool but they met his.

Stalemate. It didn't make any sense. He rubbed the back of his neck. "How did you find the house?"

"A little bird tweeted."


"Your mate Eddie."

Ah, Christ, he should have thought of that. How else would Doyle have found him?

Doyle spoke again. "You know, I don't believe he approves of me."

"Is he still alive?"

Doyle thought about it. "He might be."

"Then he approves of you."

"He didn't seem to think much of you." Doyle shot the words out, then he looked away.

Ah, now they were getting down to it. Bodie smiled and leaned back slightly, comfortable with familiar ground. "We had a disagreement or two, once upon a time. Apparently my bribe wasn't quite good enough." He waited for Doyle's response.

Doyle merely grunted, then stood up. "Are you finished or do you want more?"

Frustration made him snap. "I'm not a bloody invalid, you know!"

"Suit yourself." Picking up his plate, Doyle took it to the sink.

Bodie sighed heavily. He stood and deposited his own plate on top of Doyle's. He should go to his flat, collapse into sleep. "I could do with a drink, if you're offering."

Doyle barely gave him a glance. "Come with me, my son." He led the way to the living room and went immediately to the drinks cabinet.

Bodie sat on the sofa, eyes on the Christmas tree, mind wearily focused on Doyle. Some convoluted new game? More than likely, and he'd already lost points. So Doyle didn't want to talk about it. Fine. So the sun started going around the moon. Fine.

Doyle walked over to him, carrying two glasses. He handed one to Bodie. "You are allowed to have this?"

"'course. Ta." Bodie drank the scotch, appreciating the burn of it. Deliberately, he relaxed into the sofa. He should be relieved, dammit, not irritated. He didn't want a bloody lecture, did he? Of course not, nothing to be lectured about. The op was over, move on.

Doyle carried his drink to a table near the tree, settled on the floor, next to a box, and then unwrapped more ornaments.

Sipping his drink, Bodie watched Doyle deftly handling the ornaments. Except for the rustle of tissue paper, the flat was silent. In the distance, he could hear the muted sounds of traffic, of other people in their flats around them, but none of it disturbed the tranquillity of Doyle's flat. He breathed deeply, slowly, and gradually the tension, and the remnants of fear, eased away, replaced by a comfortable tiredness. Setting his empty glass aside, he leaned against the arm of the sofa, watching Doyle through lazy eyelids.

Lifting an ornament from the box, Doyle held it in his hand, as if weighing it. He turned his head towards Bodie. Their eyes met, and then Doyle smiled, one of his rare, sweet smiles. Bodie's stomach tightened, and he blinked, struggling back to alertness.

Doyle rose to his feet, and approached Bodie. He handed him the ornament. The smile had disappeared, but Doyle's eyes were intent.

"What is this?" The ornament was light in his hand; he could barely feel it.

"See for yourself."

Carefully, mindful of his earlier clumsiness, Bodie unwrapped the ornament. Inside the tissue was a metal Christmas bell, about four inches high, with a tiny clapper inside that swung but made no sound when it struck. The colours were faded with age and use, blending into each other at the edges, but he could still make out the design--a swirl of Christmas flowers wreathing the bell, gaiety undiminished. He looked up at Doyle.

"That was my sister's favourite ornament. I nicked it when I left home."

He looked down at the bell again, fingering it gently. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Go on, put it on the tree. It won't break if you drop it."

Bodie did as he was bidden, finding a spot for the bell high on the tree, in the front where all would see it. As he placed the bell, Doyle switched off the room lights. And then the fairy lights sprang to life, banishing the darkness. The tree glittered before him, dazzling him, like fire reflected in a thousand coloured diamonds.

Doyle joined him before the tree, standing close, but not touching. His voice was quiet. "I wonder, sometimes, which would be her favourite now."

It seemed, then, the most natural thing in the world to draw Doyle to him. To breathe in the scent of him, overlaid with pine. Simply to hold him, as he'd never done before, as he'd never thought of doing before. And he found that wasn't enough, after all. So he nuzzled Doyle's ear, his cheek, his neck. Doyle responded by tilting his head, granting him access. Inflamed, Bodie eased Doyle to the floor.

Without a word spoken, the only sound their breathing, their hands moved in symmetry, undoing buttons and zips, stroking over heating flesh, seeking more. Bodie's senses, already erratic with exhaustion, overloaded under Doyle's touch, sweeping him away to a world that consisted only of sensation: desire and warmth and a rapidly growing ache that spiralled unbearably through him, until he was blinded by the brilliant light of release. Kaleidoscope images of the day merged and reformed, leaving him blinking and panting, and only slowly becoming aware that he lay on his back, in Doyle's flat, under Doyle's Christmas tree, with Doyle's hand, unmoving now, holding him.

His eyes sought Doyle's, finding an unmet need there, but also wariness. That wasn't right, wasn't needed. He pulled Doyle to him again, slid his hand along his body, easing aside the clothing that was still in his way. Doyle didn't resist him as he pushed him onto his back, as his hands stroked down to Doyle's groin. And as Doyle arched beneath him, he whispered to him: "Don't think, don't think, just feel." His tongue forged a trail down Doyle's body, until his mouth finally engulfed Doyle's cock, taking it deep, his hands controlling Doyle's thrusts. He heard Doyle's voice, wordless sounds, felt him shudder, and tasted him at last, as he surrendered to Bodie's sure touch. All the tension fled from Doyle, leaving him as limp and as exhausted as Bodie.

Well content, Bodie lay beside Doyle, rubbing gently over Doyle's belly. His eyes were caught once again by the Christmas tree--he could just make out Doyle's sister's bell and its silent clapper. Maybe one day he'd tell Doyle of his own Christmases past. Of the trees that were never real, of the presents that always seemed more appropriate for other boys, not for him. Of the boredom and disinterest that drove him out and away from all that was predictable.

Doyle's eyes opened and he looked up at Bodie. "You stupid bastard. I could kill you."

Delight and relief made him grin. "I thought you just did."

Doyle sat up, arms braced behind him, and he took a long look at Bodie. "I didn't enjoy the last couple of days."

"If it's any consolation, I'm bloody glad you arrived when you did."

"Don't leave me guessing like that again. Either we're partners or we're not. I won't play Tonto to your Lone Ranger."

"No. That was my fault." His eyes dropped but he rubbed Doyle's thigh with his fingers, soothingly. "I should've warned you about Eddie."

"Why didn't you?"

Bodie shrugged, at a loss. Finally, he said, "There are a lot of ghosts."

"For me as well."

That brought his eyes up, and he saw his own mixture of curiosity and reluctance reflected in Doyle's face. What price to satisfy curiosity? "So...we'll deal with them when they come around, all right?"

Slowly, Doyle nodded. "Yeah, all right." He sat up straight, pulling the rest of his clothing off, before stretching languorously.

Bodie watched him with pleasure. In the soft illumination of the Christmas tree, Doyle's hair was darker, and shadows played along his body, highlighting and concealing.

Doyle turned towards him and he saw the gleam of white teeth. "I can see why you go through so many birds now. Go off like a rocket, don't you?"

"Cheek!" Bodie sat up slowly, his muscles protesting. "You're lucky I got it up at all."

"I think you have that backwards, mate."

"Wait until tomorrow and I'll show you backwards."

"You're spending the night, then?" The wariness was back.

"If I'm invited." Bodie held his breath, waiting through Doyle's silence.

"I didn't expect this."

"There's no need to analyse it to death, is there?" It was an uncomplicated business, wasn't it? More gently, he said, "Nothing's changed, Ray."

"Hasn't it?"

"No. It's just fun, a good way to unwind. Between friends."

Doyle was still for a long time, gazing into the distance, his face unreadable. And then his mouth curved into a small smile. "It is that." He nodded, and with one smooth motion he was on his feet.

Bodie stood as well, watching as Doyle collected his clothing and then carried their glasses to the drinks cabinet. He wasn't taking anything for granted. "Ray? Is it all right if I spend the night?"

Doyle shrugged. "If you want. We'll have to leave earlier, stop by your flat."

Bodie nodded. He'd had enough of solitude. Doyle switched the fairy lights off, leaving the room in darkness, except for the faint light through the curtains at the window. Bodie stood still, waiting for his eyes to adjust.

Doyle was beside him, then, a light touch on his hand. "Come on, let's go to bed." He followed Doyle across the room to the hallway. "I'm taking a shower, do you want me to leave you some hot water?"

"Is that a hint?"

"Up to you."

Bodie reached out and rubbed his hand along Doyle's back. "If we take it together we can both have enough."

Doyle stopped walking and Bodie bumped into him. "Have you seen the size of my shower? Wait your turn, Butch." He started forward again.

Bodie sighed for lost opportunity, and followed Doyle into his darkened bedroom.

22 December 1978

Bodie struggled to get free of Kubiak, to find any purchase at all to throw him off. But he was pinned, and the arm around his throat was drawing tighter, arching his neck back. It wouldn't take long; he had to move, had to find a way to break the hold, or--

And suddenly the terrible pressure, and the weight, were gone. He gasped and coughed, struggling to move but only able to curl onto his side. Dimly he heard a shout and then the sound of a splash. Forcing himself to his knees, he looked around. He saw no one, but the splashing sounds were still coming from the canal. He crawled to the edge of the canal.

Doyle was in the water, one arm around Kubiak, keeping him afloat. "Well, don't just sit there like a gob-smacked idiot. Help me get him out of here!"

Bodie sat back on his heels. "What are you doing here?"

"Saving you. Here, grab him."

Obediently, Bodie leaned forward, reaching for Kubiak, who put up no resistance as Doyle pushed and Bodie pulled him from the canal. Kubiak lay on the concrete like a beached whale, coughing and shivering. Wrinkling his nose at the smell, Bodie made sure Kubiak was secure before he turned back to the canal to give Doyle a helping hand. Doyle came up onto the towpath, streaming water and cursing.

"The fucking idiot couldn't swim. He tried to throw me into the canal! It's bloody freezing. What the fuck were you doing letting him get the drop on you, anyway?"

Bodie dragged Kubiak to his feet. He still looked like a beached whale--pale and blubbery and distinctly unhappy. "Did you bring the car?"

"No, I swam here." Doyle pushed wet hair out of his eyes. "It's over there." Bodie started off, pulling Kubiak with him, leaving Doyle to trail along behind. "I got a call from Cowley telling me to pick you up from surveillance. This isn't the approved way to conduct surveillance, you know."

"I thought you were still on escort duty for Palmer." Bodie spied Doyle's Escort and altered his course accordingly. The sky had just been beginning to lighten as he'd followed Kubiak, now true dawn was chasing the last of the night away. He could see his breath in the cold air--Doyle had reason to complain.

"All done. He left early."

"How'd you know where I'd gone?"

"I didn't. I was on my way to the obbo but I couldn't find a good place to park. I was walking back to find you when I saw you getting clocked by him. Who is he?"

They'd reached the car and Doyle unlocked the doors. "James Kubiak." Bodie opened the door and pushed Kubiak into the back seat. "Cowley was hoping he'd turn up to visit his bird. When he did, I called it in, and Cowley told me to bring him in."

Doyle leaned against the side of the car. "Ah. Is that what you were doing?"

"Before you interfered, yes." Bodie plucked the car key from Doyle's fingers and went around to the boot.

"I do apologise, mate. Somehow I missed it that you had everything under control."

Bodie pulled out a blanket from the boot, then closed it. He walked back to Doyle. "I'm getting used to it." He unfolded the blanket and wrapped it around Doyle. "It's a good thing this is your car. You smell terrible."

"Gosh, thanks. You can always take the tube." Doyle climbed into the passenger seat, while Bodie walked around to the other side and let himself in. He started the car, and Doyle turned the heater up to high.

It took less than fifteen minutes to reach HQ. They escorted Kubiak inside, receiving barely a glance from Fred at the security desk.

Doyle touched Bodie's arm. "I'd like a hot shower. Do you think, if you really try, you can manage it from here?"

Bodie sighed.

"Well, it's a long way to the interrogation rooms. There's no telling what might happen."

"Shut up, Doyle."

The door behind them opened, and Bodie glanced around to see one of the new agents walking into the building, exchanging a greeting with Fred.

Doyle grinned. "Murphy! Just the man we need."

Bodie looked at the ceiling, then back at Murphy's imperfectly hidden look of astonishment.

"Doyle, Bodie." Murphy stopped a few feet away, his nose twitching.

"That's him." Bodie nodded towards Doyle.

Doyle narrowed his eyes and smiled. "The lad here needs some help with his prisoner. He's more tricky than he looks--already beat Bodie once."

Murphy looked from Kubiak to Bodie, eyebrows rising.

"Yeah, all right." Bodie tugged on Kubiak's arm to get him moving. "You just keep in mind, Murphy, I was there when you found Peterson at the Lion."

At Doyle's interested look, Murphy hurried forward to take Kubiak's other arm. They whisked him down the stairs to interrogation, leaving Doyle behind.

After informing Cowley of Kubiak's whereabouts, and finding himself dismissed, Bodie went to the locker room in search of Doyle. He might have made a fool of himself this morning, but he couldn't regret it when it'd brought back the Doyle he was familiar with. Recent experience warned him, however, that Doyle might have changed again by the time he caught up with him. He didn't know--or care--where this quiet, strange Doyle of the last few weeks had come from. All he did know was that if this was some new game of Doyle's, he didn't intend to play it much longer.

No one was in the locker room, but he could hear the shower running. Bodie pulled a chair out from the table in front of the lockers and sat down to wait. Weariness tugged at him, pulling his shoulders and head down, and he sighed. At the very least he had the excuse of needing a ride home. And how long had it been since he'd needed an excuse to wait for Doyle?

Since Marikka. Yeah, all right, so he'd been a fool there, but that didn't explain Doyle's brooding. Or the awkwardness that had grown between them. It couldn't be anger--if Doyle was angry he lashed out, he didn't bury it. Doyle hadn't said a word about Marikka, hadn't said much of anything once it was over. Bodie hadn't known how to reach through to him. He'd been relieved when Cowley had sent them on separate jobs.

If anyone had a right to be angry about what had happened with Marikka, it was Bodie, wasn't it? What was Doyle playing at? One minute his partner, the next a stranger. He'd accept an invitation to the pub, refuse an invitation to spend Christmas Day. And when they were alone together, off the job, Doyle was silent. Not unfriendly, just...aloof.

Bodie heard the shower shut off. Doyle appeared in the doorway, a towel wrapped around his waist, another on his head. Doyle halted for a moment when he saw Bodie, eyeing him, then he moved forward slowly, stopping in front of his locker. The smell of soap and shampoo reached Bodie, reminding him of other scents.

Doyle towelled his hair, his assessing gaze meeting Bodie's.

Holding himself still under Doyle's scrutiny, Bodie maintained the contact, waiting until Doyle's eyes dropped before allowing himself the freedom to examine him. His eyes travelled over Doyle, observing the flex of muscles in his chest, lingering over puckered nipples, and following the pattern of hair down to concealing cotton. He ached to touch, to feel Doyle moving beneath his touch, pleading and demanding all in one. Ached, too, to drive away that distant look in Doyle's eyes, the detachment. They hadn't slept together since Marikka, either.

He didn't know what had changed, or even if anything had. Doyle hadn't exactly refused him; he simply hadn't been there. Anger, frustration and confusion chased each other within Bodie, and he fought to control his expression, knowing he'd be lost if he didn't. In the past year, they had gone longer stretches without sleeping together, and he hadn't thought anything of it at the time. Except for how good it had been when they'd gone to bed again. That had been the night he'd urged Doyle to fuck him--knowing it would get him what he'd wanted from the very beginning. And so it had proven, Doyle offering his own arse to Bodie within the week. His cock stirred at the memory, and he raised his eyes to find Doyle looking at him, watching him with the knowledge of what Bodie wanted clear in his eyes.

Well and why shouldn't he? What the fuck did Doyle expect of him? He watched as Doyle dropped the towel from his head to the floor.

"Is that why you came, then?" Doyle's eyes swept over him, his expression remote.

"I came for a ride."

"Oh yeah?" Doyle centred his gaze on Bodie's groin. "Here?"

Bodie leaned back in his chair, considering Doyle. He couldn't read him at all. "If you like."

"Sure of yourself, aren't you?"

"You're offering, sunshine."

The corner of Doyle's mouth curved and he canted his head, while his hand reached up to scratch his shoulder, lingering, before sliding down to stroke across his chest. "It has been a while."

Bodie shrugged, his shoulders tight.

Doyle contemplated him. "What if I wanted the ride?"

"It's my turn."

"Is it."

"By my reckoning."

Doyle's fingers stilled, then started up again with the self-caress. "We play this by your rules, is that it?"

A flicker of anger warmed Bodie. "Yeah, that's it."

Doyle gazed at him, face expressionless. His hand moved in a lazy circle over his stomach. "No. Not this time." He abruptly turned to his locker, opening it.

Bodie was on his feet in a flash, moving towards Doyle. He reached for his shoulder, but Doyle swung round, ducking away from him. Bodie's fingers found an arm and he gripped that instead. "What are you playing at?" He could feel the tension in the muscle beneath his fingers, and knew, with a twisted surge of excitement, that Doyle would fight him. Doyle wanted to fight him. He tightened his hold.

Doyle's eyes glittered, and his mouth smiled, but he said nothing.

Water from Doyle's hair dripped onto his shoulder, sliding down his chest. Bodie swallowed. "It's a fucking dangerous game." He kept his voice low.

"That's apt."

With his free hand, Bodie reached for the towel around Doyle's waist. Doyle's fingers clamped around his wrist. Move and counter move. "Why?"

"It got your attention."

Bodie moved closer. "You always do that."

Doyle laughed, a derisive sound. "No, not always."

Releasing Doyle's arm, Bodie snatched at the towel, whisking it from Doyle. At the same time, Doyle's hand went straight to Bodie's groin--effective even through cloth.

Doyle smiled as Bodie stilled. "Stalemate, wouldn't you say?"

"Possibly. What now?" His heart was pounding, blood and adrenaline pouring through his arteries.

"Now?" Doyle moved his hand and Bodie bit back a groan.

He stared into Doyle's eyes, seeing the wildness still riding high in him, a recklessness that Doyle sometimes got on the job, but rarely off. Doyle laughed again, his smile mocking, and then he leaned forward and captured Bodie's mouth with his own.

They'd kissed before, a time or two, but only in the midst of sex when the need drove them to it. Instinctively, Bodie pulled back, but Doyle pushed forward, trapping Bodie against the lockers. Doyle's mouth was warm and sensual and shockingly intimate against his own. He wanted more of it and he wanted none of it. With a groan of surrender, he opened his mouth to Doyle's possession.

Doyle, at last, broke away, and Bodie leaned against the lockers, suffering the loss, too confused to protest. Doyle's hands gripped his arms as he stood before him, head down, breathing hard.

"Ray--" He broke off as he heard the locker room door open. They leapt apart, Doyle grabbing the towel from the floor. Christ but they were insane to be doing anything like this here. Fortunately, a row of lockers separated them from view of the door.

"Anyone here?"

Bodie closed his eyes, grateful only that it wasn't Cowley.

"Yeah, Charlie, we're over here." Doyle's voice was abrupt. Bodie opened his eyes and watched as Doyle pulled out trousers and a shirt from his locker.

"Well, well, if it isn't my old friends, Bentley and Layton." Charlie walked around the edge of the lockers, grinning.

Bodie smiled back, feeling his heart slowing. "Are you out of hospital already?"

Charlie shook his head. "Quick. Very quick. Cowley should know about him."

"Oh, he does. That's why he has a keeper." Doyle pulled on a T-shirt, then picked up a long-sleeved shirt to go over it.

"Ta, mate." Bodie eased himself into the chair again. "How are you, Charlie?"

Charlie shrugged. "I'm all right. I just came to clean out my locker."

Doyle looked up from buttoning his shirt. "What are your plans?"

"I already have a job lined up. Hospital security. The pay's not much but I can pass their physical."

Bodie's eyes dropped to his hands. They'd lost a good man in Charlie.

"At least you're alive." Doyle's tone was flat. Bodie flexed his hands on his thighs, then looked up again.

"Yeah." Charlie nodded, his eyes on Doyle. "I'll always be proud that I was with the Squad." He looked away.

Bodie grinned. "Well, of course. Only accept the best, we do. You just keep that in mind."

"I will." Charlie looked around the locker room. "Yeah, I'm going to miss this place. Every time it rains and I'm snug inside, all warm with nowhere to go. Or when I sit down to a nice dinner, I'll think about never again having a CI5 special. Or when I'm not called in just when I'm getting my end away.... Who wouldn't miss it?"

"Any more jobs to be had at that hospital?"

"They wouldn't have you." Charlie's grin faded a little as he looked at them both. "Did you.... Do you know now what it was all about? Who, at least, I was supposed to be?"

Bodie caught Doyle's look, and he took the responsibility. "Nah, you know how they are. They don't tell the help anything."

Doyle leaned against the locker, arms folded. "They take us for granted."

"They do that," Charlie agreed. He looked down at his shoes.

"It was important, Charlie." Bodie leaned forward.

Doyle joined in. "You did what you were trained to do, and you did it well. We succeeded because of you."

Charlie smiled at that, and shook his head. "You two make your own luck."

Bodie stood up. "Well, he does. I'm just along for the ride. Aren't I, Doyle?"

Doyle closed his locker. "You know your place, I'll give you that." He held out his hand to Charlie. "Good luck, Charlie. I'm glad I had the chance to work with you."

"Thank you." Charlie shook hands with both of them, smiling awkwardly. He turned towards his locker.

Bodie and Doyle headed out of the room, but Charlie's voice stopped them at the door.


Bodie turned back.

"Thanks for what you said. You know, when I was shot." Charlie looked uncomfortable but determined.

All too aware of a curious Doyle at his shoulder, Bodie just nodded. He then ushered Doyle out of the locker room.

"What you said?" Typical Doyle curiosity--it, too, had been missing in action recently. They started down the corridor.

"You see, other people appreciate me."

"I appreciate you." Doyle poked him. "Who saved your life this very morning?"

"Ah, but you nearly took it away again when Charlie walked in on us."

"Gets the adrenaline flowing." Doyle grinned.

That wild energy was still there in Doyle--controlled, but there under the humour. He resisted the impulse to make it flare, knowing it would take very little. Not here. But a reckoning was certainly due. "Speaking of which--breakfast?"

"You buyin'?"

"It's your turn." They started up the stairs.

"This turn business seems to be working out in your favour today, doesn't it?" Doyle's look went straight to Bodie's groin.

"The rewards of virtuous living."

"You wouldn't know--"

Murphy interrupted them, shouting from the top of the stairs. "Doyle, Bodie--you're wanted in the briefing room straight away." He hurried on and they could hear him sounding the alert to others in his wake.

"There goes the bloody day." Bodie sighed as they reached the landing.

Doyle shrugged, undismayed. "It's not a total loss. C'mon, I'll buy you breakfast out of the machine."

"All right. But it won't count as your turn."

"Miser." Doyle started past him, with a grin. Bodie touched his arm, stopping Doyle's progress.

"You're lively today." And because he was watching he saw the flicker of wariness in Doyle's eyes, belied by his voice.

"Punch drunk. I was with Palmer all night, you know."

"And that puts me among the favoured again, does it?"

Surprise chased the wariness away. "What--"

Another voice interrupted Doyle. "Were you two called in as well?"

Bodie's eyes lingered on Doyle for a moment longer, before he transferred his gaze to Anson, who had just arrived at the top of the stairs. "We never left."

"That's why we're the best." Doyle was still looking at Bodie, speculation on his face. Well, it was better than indifference.

Anson looked unimpressed. "No sleep, eh? If there's shooting, remind me not to ask you two for cover." He nodded towards the briefing room. "It's getting busy over there."

With a pang of regret for missing his breakfast, even if it was from a machine, Bodie followed Anson and Doyle to the room.

It was noisy inside, half the Squad gathered together. No one knew what was going on, except that all personnel on standby had been called in. Murphy was pounced on for more information when he arrived, but he shook his head.

"All I know is that Cowley told me to round up everyone in the building. I did overhear a name--Burke?"

Bodie glanced at Doyle, raising his eyebrows. "I thought he was off the Squad."

"No." Cowley's voice interrupted the speculation. He walked into the room, carrying a file folder. "He's been undercover for a year and a half in an organisation that sells its services to terrorist groups. His cover was blown this morning. All I received from him was the information that he was going to try for one of our safe houses. I want each of you, in pairs, to go to the safe houses. You will wait there to see if Burke arrives and offer him any assistance you can. Keep in close contact with base. If he shows, I want to be notified immediately. Is that understood?"

"We should expect pursuit?" Anson voiced the question from where he lounged against the wall.

"Yes. And they will try to terminate him and anyone who gets in their way. I want the information that Burke will be carrying, and I want him alive. Pick up additional weapons and ammunition at the armoury. Are there any other questions?" He looked around the room. "Very well. I have your assignments here."

Doyle looked an inquiry at Bodie, who nodded and watched as Doyle went to Cowley to receive their instructions. Doyle exchanged a brief word with the controller before returning to Bodie's side.

"We're on."

"On what?" Bodie followed Doyle out of the room, turning towards the armoury.

"On a train."

"What, that place again?" Bodie grimaced.

"It's nice and quiet."

"If I was being chased, I'd head for a crowd, mate."

"If they're as ruthless as Cowley indicated, then you're not going to want other people around. Remember the first rule."

"Stay alive?"

"Keep Father happy." Doyle opened the door to the armoury and preceded Bodie into the room.

They collected an Ingram and an Uzi, with extra rounds, then drove to the old South Bank terminal. Train carriages littered the freight yard, some in for repairs, others abandoned for years. It was a quiet place, easy to slip in and out of unnoticed. When there were fireworks, no questions were ever asked. Bodie assumed Cowley had arranged for the occasional use of the yard.

Only selected abandoned carriages were ever used for the safe house. Burke would most likely check in all of them. Bodie headed for his favourite--a passenger carriage, separated from the others and right up against the fence at one end. It was more defensible than the other choices.

They settled into seats on either side of the carriage. Through the empty window, Bodie acquainted himself with the view: four other carriages, a field of stunted grass and dirt, and the yard fence. The winter sun was high overhead, warming the day and the carriage, although he was glad of his jacket. At least with the windows broken there was a breeze roaming through the carriage, chasing away the usual smell of dirt and mould.

"What do you reckon?" Bodie looked over at Doyle.

"About what? Burke?" Doyle was on a bench seat, one leg stretched out to the seat across from him.


"I reckon he's been in deep."

"He wasn't stable the last we saw."

"Neither was Tommy."

Bodie frowned as his eyes swept over the carriages outside his window. "The Old Man said he was off the Squad. I don't like working with unpredictable people."

"Cowley uses whatever he has to use--everything and everyone."

There was a bitter tone to Doyle's comment that turned Bodie's head. "You don't approve."

"I don't know anything about it."

"Ah! That's what you don't approve of."

A brief grin acknowledged the truth of that, but then Doyle shook his head. "I don't know all the facts. I do wonder what Burke was doing undercover, though, without any apparent backup."

"There are jobs like that."

"And men suited for it. Which neither one of us would have pegged Burke for."

Bodie shrugged. "Neither one of us is controller, mate."

"No." After that curt agreement, Doyle fell silent.

"Anyway, what else would he do?"

"Charlie found something else."

"Yeah. See how satisfied he is in a year."

"Better than dead."

"You said that before. Yeah, all right. Better than dead."

There was a short silence, and Bodie found himself thinking about Charlie, and blood, and being invalided out.

"And at least he won't be lied to by his so-called friends."

Bodie sighed. "That's what's bothering you, is it?"

"He should know the truth."

"We can't tell him, you know that."

"Because he's not on the fucking Squad and it's classified. Yeah, I know. It doesn't make it right. He was one of us."

"'Was' being the operative word." Bodie glanced at Doyle, catching his glare.

"It doesn't change who he is."

"What good would it do to tell him? He's happier not knowing, isn't he?"

"It'd drive me mad not to know."

"Charlie's not you."

Doyle looked impatient. "Charlie's the one who's asking."

"All he cared about was that it was important. And it was."


"No. War games."

"That's your answer, is it? It makes you happy?"

"I live with it."

"Yeah. It's the dying with it that worries me."

Bodie watched a bird sail over the abandoned carriages. "We got through it. We did our job. Do the reasons matter so much?"

Doyle shifted in his seat. "I told you before I don't like what this job has turned us into."

Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. "Christ. Not this again. Are you going to brood over Paul Coogan all your life?"

Silence. Then: "Well, all yours, at the very least." Bodie looked quickly at Doyle, then grinned and rolled his eyes. "Anyway, I'm not talking about that so much as the pattern."

Bodie, catching movement out of the corner of his eye, was still, watching. After a moment he relaxed. "Fox. What pattern?"

"What we've become, what we do, what we accept. I hit Paul Coogan--"

"Because he hit you."

"Yeah, because he hit me. Because I'm trained to hit back."

"You'd be useless to CI5 if you didn't."

"Exactly! It's what I've become. And then Cowley throws us to the wolves."

"You know we're expendable."

"In your so-called war games? I know he'll throw us to the wolves, but I expected it to mean something. Just like poor, deluded Charlie."

"It does mean something. You're doing the job."

"And that comes above everything." Doyle's eyes were on his, intent.

"Most things."


"I trust Cowley."

"Even after that op?"

"He didn't stop me from getting to you."

"He didn't help you, either, did he? And you know he would've stopped you if need be."

"It's the job, mate. What's this in aid of?"

There was no sound from Doyle's side of the train carriage. Bodie waited.

"Do you trust me?"

Bodie looked sharply at Doyle, but he was gazing out the window. "You know I do. C'mon, Doyle."

"Like you trust Cowley."

"What are you getting at?"

"You said once that we could trust each other even when we can't trust Cowley." Doyle shifted his eyes to Bodie. "I was obeying Cowley when I followed you, when I interrogated Marikka. Putting him before you."

"For Christ's sake, Doyle, you were following orders. Doing your job."

"Yeah, and that makes it all right. Soldier mentality, Bodie. Only it wasn't the soldier who met me at the bottom of that ladder, was it?"

Bodie stared at him, frozen, and Doyle turned back to the window.

Bodie swallowed. "I didn't understand."

"No. You understood too well."

"Ray--" Bodie broke off as Doyle lifted a hand. "What?"


Bodie moved quickly to Doyle's side, keeping out of the line of sight through the window. "Where?"

"To the left."

"I see him." Bodie flicked the safety on the Uzi.

"That's Burke."

"Yeah. He's injured."

"I'll go out." Doyle stood, Browning in hand.

"Stay in front. I can cover you from here."

"Right." Doyle started forward, but paused as Bodie touched his arm.

"Let him know you're coming."

Doyle nodded. He turned and headed for the exit.

Bodie radioed their situation to Cowley, who said backup was on its way. Moving into position, Bodie scanned the empty space in front of their carriage, and the cluster of train carriages to their left. They had spotted Burke moving from one carriage to the next, but he was out of sight behind the nearest carriage now. To Bodie's right were more carriages and a wooden shack in a state of disrepair. He could detect no movement at all.

A minute later, he heard Doyle's whistle, and then Burke cautiously emerged from behind the nearest carriage. Doyle ran to him, taking the satchel that Burke was holding before offering his support on the trip back to their carriage. They were halfway back when Bodie saw movement to the left. He shouted to Doyle, and started firing as he saw a man carrying a semi-automatic edge around a carriage. Bodie's bullets struck true, the man falling back and away from the carriage. But other bullets sprayed the ground behind the fleeing Doyle and Burke.

Bodie fired the Uzi, creating as much cover as he could, hoping it would be enough. He counted two men, to the left. Doyle and Burke reached their carriage, and Bodie lost sight of them as they disappeared through the entrance. A moment later Doyle was beside him, reaching for the Ingram and taking up position on the other side of the window.

"They're to the left. How's Burke?" Bodie shot at a patch of white, ducking back when the fire was returned.

"He's got a bullet in his arm. Needs a doctor, but he'll live." Doyle fired. "Too much cover."

Bodie heard movement behind him. "Burke, you know how many were following you?"

"I saw three. Hoped there'd be somebody waiting for me here. Damn, this hurts."

"Blame Cowley."

"For everything," Doyle added.

"Hold off." Bodie leaned back up against the carriage wall, gesturing for Doyle to do the same. Bodie gave it thirty seconds, then went back into position with the Uzi. He got the second man just as he emerged from underneath a car. "Too keen."

"Is Cowley on his way?" Burke spoke again from behind them.

"Yeah, he's--fuck!" Bullets raked the carriage, causing them all to dive to the floor, hoping that ricochets wouldn't get them. There was a moment's silence. Bodie crept up to the window again, and caught a glimpse of movement to his left, at the door to their carriage. "Incoming!"

Bodie ran to the entrance, hearing the sound of gunfire behind him as well. Doyle's Ingram. He saw the barrel of a gun emerging from the door frame, ducked and slid, firing the Uzi. Only one man was in the entrance. He was dead.

Doyle's voice carried to him. "Got the one out front."

Four. Bodie took the dead man's weapon, then turned back to the interior of the carriage. He dropped to the floor as gunfire erupted inside the carriage, scrunching behind the last seat before the entrance. Silence fell. He inched around the seat, staying low. A man lay sprawled at the far end of the carriage. Burke lay in the centre of the aisle. Bodie jumped to his feet. "Doyle!"

Doyle emerged from behind one of the seats, head bloodied. "Keep watch." He went to Burke.

Bodie hurried to the window. There was no movement outside. He counted three bodies. Behind him, he could hear Doyle swearing under his breath. A flicker of colour caught his eye and he levelled the Uzi. But it was Murphy who emerged from behind the carriages to the left, followed by Anson. He signalled to them, then turned and joined Doyle with Burke.

"Cavalry's here."

"Stupid prat saved my life, jumped the bastard at point blank range. Knocked me away." Doyle's hands were gentle as he did what he could for Burke; his voice was savage.

Bodie thumbed open the r/t and called for an ambulance.

"His breathing's all right, he's conscious. Entry wound in the front, exit in the back. I've covered the back."

Burke lay on his back, his jacket a bloody mess, eyes closed. Doyle had covered the wound in Burke's chest with his rolled-up shirt, and was now applying pressure, trying to slow the flow of blood. There was blood on Doyle's hands, more on his head, soaking into the T-shirt he'd put on only a few hours earlier.

Bodie checked Burke's pulse, finding it rapid but steady. "Are you all right?"

Doyle looked up. "Yeah. Hit my head on the way down." His eyes slid past Bodie, towards the carriage entrance. Bodie turned his head and saw Murphy. He turned back as Doyle claimed his attention again. "Here, you'd better do this, I'm not as steady as I should be." He relinquished his position to Bodie, then stood, clutching the seat for a moment. He stepped over Burke to go and meet Murphy.

Bodie stayed with Burke, applying pressure and monitoring his breathing. Burke's eyes fluttered, then opened, tracking to Bodie's face.

"Cowley." Burke was weak, his voice little more than a whisper. "Evidence."

Bodie nodded. "He'll get it, mate. Take it easy."


"Yeah. He's fine." Bodie placed his hand again along Burke's neck, monitoring his pulse.

Burke's gaze was still fixed on Bodie's face. He lifted his hand and gripped Bodie's arm with surprising strength. "Don't lose your partner."

Bodie stared at him. "No." He heard Cowley's voice at the train door, questioning Doyle.

Burke's hand fell and he closed his eyes again, turning inward.

Poor stupid bastard.

The ambulance arrived and took Burke and Doyle to hospital while Bodie followed in the Escort. Cowley stayed behind to sort out the mess at the freight yard. Burke was sent to surgery at the hospital, while Doyle was treated in casualty. The cut on Doyle's head required a few stitches, and he had a mild concussion. Afterwards, Doyle was allowed to join Bodie in a private waiting room. Bodie retrieved a couple of sandwiches from the hospital canteen, along with tea. They sat in silence, each lost to his individual thoughts.

There was nothing of this morning's tempter in Doyle now. His face was bleak, drawn in harsh lines, lips compressed. Yet Bodie still felt the tug of desire, even through the fog of his exhaustion. And he didn't know what the fuck to do about it, or about Doyle, or what the hell it all meant.

Time stretched, with nothing to fill it but replays of the morning and wondering about Burke's fate. He wondered if it had been sealed two years ago.

Bodie moved his neck to ease the strain of muscles, then sat forward with his arms on his thighs, staring at the floor. "I came to you."

He heard Doyle move in his chair. "What?"

"When you were with Marikka. I...was outside." He raised his head and looked at Doyle.

"Fuck it," Doyle whispered.

"She was always very persuasive. She needed to be."

"She defended you."

"I know that now. Cowley told me to listen to the tape."

Doyle stared at him, and Bodie, strangely chilled, forced himself to hold his gaze.

The door to the room opened and Cowley stepped in, closing the door behind him. One look at Cowley's face and Bodie knew Burke had died. He looked down, shoulders slumped, staring at his linked hands. In the loo, he'd washed Burke's blood away, but he could still feel the impression of his fingers. Don't lose your partner.

"Was it worth it?" The bitterness in Doyle was very close to the surface. Bodie banked down his own emotions and looked up at Cowley and Doyle.

"He thought so." There was fleeting pain in Cowley's face, quickly replaced by the hard efficiency of a commander. No, Bodie had no desire to be controller. He glanced at Doyle.

Doyle's eyes were on Cowley, but then he looked away. "Will the evidence be enough?" Weariness made his voice rough.

"I hope so, laddie. I hope so. You two, be in at noon tomorrow." Cowley turned to leave, but he hesitated at the door. "Right or wrong, he gave his life for the job. He wanted to break the Stratton ring."

"He threw his life away, you mean." Doyle stared at the floor.

"Easy to judge, Doyle, until you stand in another man's shoes. Stratton ordered Farley shot two years ago." Cowley nodded as Doyle gaped at him. "Aye." He turned and left the room.

Bodie watched the door swing shut behind the controller. Yeah, but Burke hadn't died to bring Stratton down. Did Cowley realise that? Cowley uses whatever he has to use--everything and everyone.

All too true, mate.

Bodie stood and walked over to Doyle, nudging his shoulder. "C'mon, let's get out of here."

Doyle looked up at him, then nodded, and followed him out of the room and out of the hospital to where Bodie had parked the Escort. The winter sun was setting, a grey sky with edges of pink trying to break through. The day had never warmed, and the wind had picked up, slicing through his open jacket. At the car, Doyle held out his hand for the keys, but Bodie shook his head.

"I'll drive."

"It's my car." Nevertheless, Doyle headed for the passenger side.

"I'm coming home with you."

Doyle slanted a look at him, but didn't say anything as Bodie settled himself in the driver's seat and started the car. The silence descended on them again, and Bodie didn't have the energy to break it this time. He felt weighted down, his thoughts wearing grooves in his brain like water over stone. The ham salad sandwich had taken the edge off his hunger but it had also settled into the pit of his stomach. He needed to eat something decent, and he needed to sleep, and he wanted Doyle.

Bodie drove on automatic, more aware of the man beside him than the late afternoon traffic swirling around him. Burke's death only brought it home more keenly: take what you want, there are no second chances.

"Well, if you're coming home with me, then, you might as well help out." Doyle broke the silence, his voice mild.

"Eh? Help out with what?"

"Pull over up there, by the greengrocer's."

Bodie did as he was asked, bringing the car to a stop. He gazed through the windscreen at the greenery decorating the front of the shop. "You're not."

"This year more than ever, eh?" Doyle touched his arm, then climbed out of the car and headed for the Christmas trees bunged together by the shop entrance. Maybe he had a point.

Bodie joined Doyle, helping him to inspect each tree, enjoying the animation on Doyle's face, the lines of concentration around his eyes as he inspected the tree Bodie held for him.

"Yeah, that one." Doyle nodded slowly.

"Are you positive? We could go through them all again."

Doyle looked at him. "Well, if you're not sure...."

"Go on, pay for it. I'll take it to the car."

"I'll see if I can get some string to tie it on with." Doyle turned away, and Bodie reached out to him, gripping his arm.


Doyle looked back at him, head tilted.

"I...it wasn't lack of trust. When Marikka died."

Doyle stilled, his face expressionless. "What, then?"

"I thought she'd set me up, and that you'd believed her. Lack of faith, not trust."

Doyle slowly shook his head. "I'm not sure there's a distinction, mate." But after a moment he shrugged and gave Bodie a small, fleeting smile. Then he turned and headed into the shop.

Bodie carried the tree to the car, positioning it on top. Doyle returned, twine in hand, and they secured the tree to the car. Fortunately, they were close to Doyle's flat, and they found a parking space not far from the entrance to the building.

"Come on up, I'll want to get the stand ready first."

Bodie followed Doyle out of the car. "Ah, you're going to teach me the esoteric science of setting up the tree, are you?"

"Observe and learn, my son."

Watching Doyle's bum rising before him on the stairs, Bodie grinned. "I have the observation part down pat." He suited action to words and was rewarded with a loud groan.

Once in the flat, Doyle shed his jacket, switched on a lamp, and disappeared down the hallway. Returning shortly with the tree stand, he set it on the floor, close to the window. The blue T-shirt he wore was stained with Burke's blood and Doyle's own. Bodie leaned back against the door, and folded his arms, his eyes never leaving Doyle.

The soft glow of the lamp didn't reach the door, and as Doyle walked back towards him, Bodie could see only the shadow of his face--very little of his expression. He swallowed.

"You ready?" Doyle stopped in front of him.

"I've been ready since this morning." Bodie unfolded his arms, then grabbed Doyle, swinging them around so that Doyle's back was to the door. He fastened his mouth on Doyle's, seeking possession, seeking an end to the uncertainty. Doyle struggled, growling in his throat, but Bodie pushed him back, trapping him against the door, as he'd been trapped against the lockers. He pushed his thigh against Doyle's cock, pressing against him, mouth still working on Doyle's. And Doyle finally opened for him, accepting Bodie's probing tongue. Ah, God, yes, this was what he wanted.

Doyle's hands clamped on his arms. Bodie broke the hold, then took one of Doyle's hands and brought it to his groin, to the clasp of Bodie's trousers. He felt Doyle's other hand join the one he'd captured, and he knew he'd won. He broke the kiss, leaving Doyle gasping, rucking up the T-shirt to expose Doyle's heaving chest. He latched on to Doyle's nipple, biting and sucking. Doyle's hands faltered.

Bodie reached for Doyle's jeans, unzipping him, freeing him from the confines of the cloth. Doyle's cock was hard and weeping already, straining towards his, but he left it alone, one hand reaching around to stroke Doyle's arse, the other on Doyle's chest as he raised his head and claimed Doyle's mouth again. His finger sought out the cleft of Doyle's arse, pressing towards his goal.

Doyle swore, groaning, and he arched towards Bodie even as he pushed back against the invading finger. Bodie felt Doyle's hands on his cock, uncoordinated, frantic, and he lifted his own hands up to Doyle's shoulders in a sweeping caress. Then he pressed down, pushing Doyle to his knees. Doyle went willingly, taking Bodie's cock into his mouth, hands clenching the back of Bodie's thighs. Bodie grabbed Doyle's head, pushing himself further into Doyle's mouth, feeling the spiral of arousal.

Before he reached the peak, he pulled out, looking down through slitted eyes at Doyle's mouth releasing him, at the dazed sensuality in Doyle's eyes. He raised Doyle up and turned him to face the door. Still gasping, Doyle braced himself, and Bodie sheathed his cock in Doyle in one quick thrust, hearing Doyle's grunt and feeling the force of it in his hand on Doyle's chest. He kissed the back of Doyle's neck, bit and licked, and felt Doyle's shuddering reaction.

"Yeah, that's right." He lifted himself out of Doyle and thrust back in again, powerfully. "This is my ride, Ray. Come along with me." His hand moved down, sliding to Doyle's cock, circling it, pumping it fiercely. Only seconds later, Doyle came, voice guttural as he cried out. Doyle collapsed against the wall, his forearms taking the brunt as Bodie pressed forward, holding him against the door as he pulled out and pushed into Doyle, over and over. Driving into him, seeking the very centre of him, as deeply as he could go, seeking flashpoint and the end of need.

When he came, at last, exploding into Doyle, holding him as he was drained, it was as if the world had collapsed to that one moment, that one sensation. Flesh against flesh, Doyle in his arms. Silenced. And they both slid to the floor in a tangle.

Bodie's hand circled Doyle's neck; he could feel the pulse there, furious but steady. His forehead resting on Doyle's shoulder, he closed his eyes.

After a long while, he felt Doyle stir, and he rolled reluctantly away, settling on his back. Doyle pulled himself up to a sitting position, back against the door, and he looked at Bodie, eyes dark.

"Your 'good way to unwind' is liable to kill us, you know."

Bodie smiled, enjoying the sight of a well-fucked Doyle. "I know."


The abruptness in Doyle's voice brought Bodie's eyes to his. But Doyle didn't say anything, just looked at him, eyes gleaming in the semi-dark. "What?"

Another long pause. "Is that invitation still open? For Christmas?"

"To Susanne's? Yeah. I thought you were going home with what's-her-name."

"Carol. And no, not any more."

Sudden anticipation made him smile. "You'll like Susanne's sister, Ray."

"Yeah. I've trusted you before on that, you know." Doyle hoisted himself up to his feet. "I've been disappointed, too." He reached out a hand for Bodie. "C'mon. We've still got a tree to put up."

Bodie groaned. "You are joking, aren't you? I need my sleep, Ray!"

"And you'll get it. After you help me with that tree." Doyle pulled on Bodie's arm, and Bodie gave in to the inevitable.

He steadied himself against Doyle's shoulder and felt him sway under the weight. "How's your head?"

"Better than it was." Doyle pulled away, then beckoned Bodie to follow him down the hallway. "I'll let you in on a little secret I've been saving."

"What's that, then?" He'd follow Doyle to his bedroom and push him into bed. Once there, neither of them would have the strength to resist sleep. The tree could wait; Doyle would see the logic of it.

"The shower here's big enough for two."

"Ah, Christ." Bodie closed his eyes in despair.

23 December 1979

Bodie woke quickly, eyes snapping open, mind racing as he struggled to remember where he was and why. Holiday, he was on holiday. And that was Lisa lying against him, one leg hooked over his. He breathed in and out slowly, his pulse steadying, and he closed his eyes, hoping to slide back into sleep. It couldn't be later than three in the morning, if that, and he'd be damned if he'd be cheated out of the sleep he so richly deserved.

Apparently, he was damned.

He opened his eyes, gazed into the dark, and took stock. He felt fine, pleasantly relaxed, tired but without any of the dragging exhaustion that had become so familiar. Too many cases, too few agents--too many lost this year to be easily replaced. The Wakeman woman had known how to cause the maximum amount of damage in the shortest amount of time. Thank Christ and her own thirst for a lengthy vengeance that she hadn't got Cowley.

Beside him, Lisa murmured something, then rolled to her side, away from him. She'd been a good choice to bring with him to the holiday cottage--sweet, easy company with an uninhibited enjoyment of sex. Not at all cloying, like Doyle's Alison. At least the girls seemed to be getting along well enough.

They'd been lucky to get the four-day holiday--Cowley, in a rare benevolent mood after they'd spoiled Plumb's fun, had made the rash promise weeks ago. They'd been luckier still to find a cottage to rent. Although why Doyle and Alison had been so insistent on staying up in the North was beyond him. Christmas was Christmas whether it snowed or not. The fire was nice, though, he'd grant them that.

Lazily, he moved a hand down his body, remembering the energetic end to the evening that had started on the sofa before the fireplace. His cock twitched as he fingered it and he gave it a few slow strokes. But he had no real desire to roll over and wake Lisa, to spend himself in her. No, it wasn't lush curves he wanted to feel, but Doyle had made it plain from the outset that there wasn't going to be a repeat of last year. No trading girls, no foursomes, not even a quick private grope. It did seem unlikely that Alison would enjoy any of that. He didn't much fancy including her, anyway.

It had been a good year, overall, despite the hazards of the job. He and Doyle were more attuned to each other than ever before--on the job and in bed. No more odd silences. Doyle's moods were all for the job now.

Realising he was thirsty, he eased out of the bed, pulling on his trousers before opening the door to their room. Doyle's room was across the landing from his, on the other side of the loo and bathroom. What if he went in there, woke Doyle and lured him out? They could make their own fun while the girls slept. They'd done it before. But Doyle had wanted to cool it for the holiday, keep it uncomplicated.

Yeah, all right. Bodie headed downstairs, avoiding the creaking floorboards out of habit.

He wandered into the kitchen and got himself some water, then peered hopefully into the refrigerator. Nothing appealed, so he finished the water and placed the glass down next to the sink. The girls were planning a full Christmas dinner, complete with Christmas pudding that Alison had brought from home. Later today they were going to get the last minute items before the shops closed in the village. Good food, good company and nothing but enjoyment in front of him. He ought to be relaxed and sleeping, not wandering around in the middle of the night.

Bodie walked into the living room, looking moodily at the tree they'd set up and decorated during the day. There wasn't much to see of it now in the shadows, but he could smell the pine all through the ground floor. Doyle's Christmas bell was on that tree, somewhere, placed there by Alison. Bodie moved on to the window.

Moonlight sparkled on the fresh snow--nothing but a dusting but the girls had been pleased. Doyle, too, had grinned at him, eyes sparkling as if he'd never seen the stuff before. The last time Bodie had known a white Christmas was the year he'd left home. He placed a hand on the windowpane, feeling the icy coldness of it. His feet were just as cold; he ought to go back to bed.

They were a mile from the village in a snug cottage, surrounded by a garden and a stone wall. It was peaceful here, far away from the dangers of CI5--from stoppages and organisation gunmen and the betrayals they'd come to expect. Doyle's voice echoed in his head: Malensky, Laura Smith--the game's the same, isn't it? The caustic question had come just after Cowley's interrogation of Malensky. He'd never brought it up again.

Bodie leaned his forehead against the window, absorbing the cold. He remembered Doyle's face earlier in the evening, alight with laughter and wine. He'd stolen a kiss from him in the hallway, between the kitchen and the living room, catching Doyle unaware but not unwilling. Kissing Doyle, he'd wanted to fly with him, away from the others, away from the job, just the two of them. And drunk on wine and Doyle's lips, he'd spoken impulsively, his mouth against Doyle's ear:

"Let's leave 'em, Ray, let's go away. You and me."

Doyle had pulled away, looking at him for a long moment, laughter fading from his eyes. "We can't." And then he'd touched Bodie's face gently, a fleeting caress, shaking his head. They'd returned to the living room.

Pushing away from the window, Bodie headed back upstairs. At the top of the stairs, he never hesitated--he turned left rather than right. Carefully, he eased open the door to Doyle's room. There were more windows in this room than in his own, and a gap between the curtains let the moonlight in, enough for him to see two figures on the bed, both asleep. Standing still, he could hear their steady breathing, each independent from the other.

Silently he moved forward to the near side of the bed, where he knew Doyle would be sleeping. Doyle lay on his side, facing towards the door, while Alison's back was to them. Bodie knelt by the bed and he placed his hand over Doyle's mouth.

Doyle woke instantly, tensing, then calming as he recognised Bodie. Removing his hand, Bodie replaced it with his mouth, startling Doyle--Doyle's mouth his for the taking. Doyle's hand clamped on his shoulder but there was nothing more he could do without waking Alison. And Doyle wouldn't want that, oh no.

Bodie released Doyle's mouth, and immediately sought him out with his hands, gliding over and down Doyle's body and finding his nipples and his cock and his balls. He grasped Doyle's cock, knowing instant triumph when he felt Doyle's response. Applying himself, he caressed and teased and drove Doyle inexorably towards his goal. Doyle swallowed a whimper, muscles rigid. His body arched mere inches, quivering with the dual need to move and to hold still. Bodie smiled and he stroked Doyle's cock, feeding his arousal, milking it. And when, finally, he felt the shudder of release begin, he took Doyle's mouth again, keeping him quiet, taking his cry into himself and swallowing it.

He could feel Doyle trembling, long after he'd finished, his breathing erratic. Doyle's hand was still painfully clenched on Bodie's shoulder. Bodie broke the hold, then patted Doyle's hand gently before releasing it. Smiling, he turned away, stepping silently to the door, closing it softly behind him. He crossed the landing to his own room, undressed and slid into bed. Well content, he slept.

24 December 1980

Damn Doyle, anyway--where was the little sod? Just back from Birmingham, after a fruitless search for an informer, Bodie was in the mood for company and warmth and cheer. Instead, he was alone, it was raining, and Doyle wasn't answering his telephone. He hadn't made any plans for Christmas, given that he'd been on assignment, but he knew that Doyle was on standby as well--so where had he got to?

A brief call to HQ told him that Doyle was at his bird's flat. He'd thought Patricia was going home over Christmas. Well, if Doyle was spending Christmas Eve at her flat.... Bodie grinned, grabbed his keys and a bottle of wine, and headed for his car--the more the merrier at Christmas, right?

Twenty minutes later, he parked as close as he could get to Patricia's flat, then walked back through the fog to the entrance. As he arrived, a man and a woman walked out of the building and obligingly held the door open for him. Kindly souls, full of the Christmas spirit. Burglars must be having a field day with it.

He had been to Patricia's flat once, picking Doyle up for work after a double-date. He liked Patricia well enough--dark brown hair, green eyes, lush mouth. Definitely a better choice than most of the other women Doyle had picked up in the last year. They seemed to have fun together, no long-term expectations on either side. Just as Bodie liked it. Doyle had settled down nicely after a rough start to the year.

Bodie's knock was answered by Doyle, looking dishevelled and contented, in a green sweater with the sleeves pushed up, jeans, and stockinged feet.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" Doyle looked him up and down unenthusiastically. "Don't tell me it's work."

"All right, I won't tell you. Mind if I come in?" Bodie slid past Doyle, patting him on the bum with the bottle of wine.

"Come in," Doyle said behind him, and he heard the door shut. Bodie walked down the short hallway to the living room. Patricia was on the sofa, and she smiled when she saw him.

"Bodie! Ray said you were on duty tonight. Didn't you, Ray?"

"He was." Doyle walked into the room and appropriated the bottle Bodie was carrying. "Oh, very nice. Did you find our friend in Birmingham, then?"

"No, wild goose chase. And give me that." He snatched the bottle back from Doyle, then presented it to Patricia. "For my kind, and lovely, hostess." The flat was decorated for Christmas--cards on every flat surface, holly tucked around picture frames, and a tinsel-covered Christmas tree in the corner.

"She's not your hostess."

"Ah, but that was when she thought I was stuck in dreary Birmingham. It is dreary, you know, even more so than London tonight."

Patricia smiled and accepted the bottle. "Of course I'm his hostess! I'm glad you were able to come back in time, Bodie. Ray told me you regretted having to turn down our invitation."

Bodie met Doyle's eyes, appreciating the blank look for what it was. "I was devastated, love, but it all turned out for the best in the end, didn't it? That is, if you don't mind having a third--awkward number that it is." And he smiled at Doyle.

"Only for the third." Doyle smiled back.

"We'll make you comfortable, Bodie, don't worry. There's plenty of food for three. Ray, take this into the kitchen, won't you love?" Doyle, still smiling, took the bottle from her. He kissed her quickly, glanced at Bodie, and walked out of the room.

Right. Two could play at that game. Bodie felt anticipation sparking within him. Oh, most definitely. Be careful how you challenge, Ray.

"Here, let me take your coat, Bodie, and I'll get you something to drink. Scotch?"

"Yes, thank you." He settled himself in an armchair, across from the tree. Patricia brought a glass to him, and his fingers lingered over hers as he took the glass from her. Her smile deepened.

He sat back in his seat and nodded at the tree. "Lovely. I like Christmas trees."

"Thank you. I love decorating them."

"Something else we share in common. Even when we've worked over Christmas, Doyle and I have always managed to scrape something together that's festive, at least. Doyle still has a few decorations from his childhood that he treasures."

"Really?" She smiled with delight. "I never would have thought it of you two."

"Thought what?" Doyle wandered back into the room, sitting on the sofa, at a right angle to Bodie. "I'd give the ham another fifteen minutes." Patricia handed him one of the glasses from the table.

"I suspect that's my cue for retiring to the kitchen. See how far women's lib has come! Entertain Bodie while I'm gone, Ray."

"Oh, I'll be sure to."

"But don't start anything fun without me." She grinned at both of them and left the room.

"Are you going to entertain me, Ray?" Bodie's eyes swept over Doyle in a comprehensive look.

"If you're civilised. I didn't expect you back."

"I thought Patricia was going home for Christmas." Bodie took a sip from his drink.

Doyle shrugged. "She changed her plans."

"And yours."

"I didn't have any."

Bodie smiled. "Now you have two at once, lucky lad."

"She doesn't play games, Bodie."

"Know her so well, do you?"


"Then you've nothing to worry about." Bodie set his glass down on the table.

Doyle studied him, then looked down at his own drink. "How was it really in Birmingham?"

"Just what we expected. Taylor was dead three days before I found him."

"That must have been unpleasant."

"For both of us."

"And it puts us back at square one."

"That was Cowley's thought. Father was most displeased."

"I'll bet he was."

Patricia appeared in the doorway. "Ray, will you help me in the kitchen, please?" She disappeared again.

Doyle put his glass down and stood.

Bodie looked up at him. "How very domestic."

"Yeah." Doyle leaned confidingly close. "It's nice."

Bodie stretched comfortably in his chair, like the lord of the castle.

Doyle grimaced. "Yeah, all right, no need to rub it in. I like working in the kitchen, remember."

"I didn't say anything, mate."

"You've a very expressive face. That's why you're lousy at undercover work, you know."

"Oi! I'll have you know I do impassive like a master!"

"Yes, but a master of what?"

Patricia's voice reached them. "Ray!"

Doyle moved towards the door, but he touched Bodie on the shoulder as he passed his chair. "I'm glad you're back."

"Yeah, me too." Bodie watched as Doyle left the room, admiring the view. Picking up his glass, he swallowed the rest of the scotch. Nice flat, nice girl, but what the hell was Doyle doing? He'd thought Doyle had already learnt this particular lesson with Ann.

"What's that expression for?" Patricia came into the room.

"Missed you, didn't I?"

She laughed. "Ray warned me about you, you know."

"It's all true, I'm afraid."

"I was rather hoping it was. Come on, dinner is served."

Dinner consisted of ham, Duchesse potatoes, pease pudding and carrots. Good old-fashioned food, the likes of which Bodie hadn't had in years. The conversation was light and animated, ranging from the election of the American president to the NHS to John Lennon's death.

"A girl after my own heart, aren't you?" Bodie finished off his third helping of ham, eyeing Doyle's half-finished piece.

"Oi, that's mine." Doyle fended Bodie off with his fork. "And so's she, I might add."

"Why are you wasting your time with him?" Bodie stole some of Doyle's potatoes instead.

Patricia propped her chin on her hand. "Hmm, I don't know, really. Habit, I suppose. I've always had a fondness for lonely strays."

"Girl like you, I'd've thought you'd go for the Oxbridge type."

"Variety is the spice of life, they say." Doyle tipped his wine-glass towards Patricia.

"Experience life to the full, that's always been my credo." Bodie nudged Doyle with his arm.

Patricia smiled. "I'm still working on that one, but I believe you're right. I don't want to look back on my life and sigh for lost opportunity."

Bodie shook his head. "It's a pity you chose him, love."

"That shows good taste, that does. And will you stop trying to pick up my girlfriend. Friend." Doyle set his knife and fork down on his plate. "That was lovely, Patricia."

Bodie rolled his eyes and Patricia laughed. "Is he always like this?" She nodded at Bodie.

"He thinks it means he has charm." Doyle looked at Bodie over the rim of his glass.

"And legions have fallen before it." Bodie winked at Patricia. "Shall we leave him in solitary splendour and clear the table?"

"You are a perfect guest, Bodie." Patricia stood and she and Bodie collected the plates to carry to the kitchen.

"He's a perfect something, that's for certain." Doyle toasted Bodie this time with the last drops of the wine.

"I hope you like pudding, Bodie. Ray's fickle about it, but I have chocolate roulade for the occasion." Patricia headed for the kitchen, hands full.

"No need to share, then." Bodie leered at Doyle, and followed Patricia into the kitchen.

The kitchen was narrow but serviceable, with appliances tucked neatly under and on top of counters. Patricia set the dishes down in the sink and Bodie reached around her to do the same, trapping her between his arms. She turned a little and shook her head at him.

"What will Ray say?"

"That he should've helped you clear the table. It was a lovely dinner, thank you."

"My pleasure."

"Mine as well."

She chuckled. "You are carrying it a bit far."

"Do you mind?" He smiled down at her.

She grew more serious. "If Ray does."

"We've shared afters before."

"I thought Ray wasn't fond of chocolate."

"That depends on how it's served." He leaned down and kissed her fleetingly on the mouth, then moved away, giving her room.

She looked at him, eyes sparkling but mouth grave.

Bodie put on his most charming smile. "You're wondering about it, aren't you? The two of us. And you." He leaned a little closer. "Ray's quite capable of saying no. Why don't we leave it up to him? He'll know where to lay the blame."

She flushed slightly, her eyes on his. Oh yes, she wouldn't turn this game down. He took her hand in his, and whispered in her ear, "I have an idea."

They returned to the living room to find Doyle standing in front of the Christmas tree, contemplating it, his face sombre in profile. He didn't glance round as Patricia walked up and wound her arms around him.

"What are you thinking?"

"Oh, of Christmases past."

"I never thought to ask if you'd like to bring something of yours for the tree. Bodie told me you have a few special ornaments."

Doyle was silent.


He shook his head. "It's not important." He turned in her arms. "I thought you were bringing out the pudding."

She leaned forward and Doyle accepted her kisses, closing his eyes while his hands moved to her back, lightly caressing.

"We decided to have you, instead." Bodie locked his fingers around Doyle's wrists, opening his arms to make room for himself against Patricia, pressing her into Doyle.

Doyle's eyes snapped open. "No." Bodie held fast as Doyle tried to free his hands.

"We're all consenting adults, Raymond." Bodie kissed the back of Patricia's neck, then raised his head to look at Doyle. Furious green eyes stared back at him.

"Patricia, you don't want this." Doyle attempted to step back but there was nowhere for him to go.

Patricia kissed his chin. "Bodie said you might be reluctant. He also told me to try this." Patricia darted her hands to Doyle's ribs, going for the ticklish spots that Bodie had mapped for her.

"Oh, bugger, Bodie!" Doyle, half-laughing now, half-groaning, stumbled to the side, twisting away from Patricia's fingers. The three of them fell in a jumbled tangle to the floor, partly beneath the Christmas tree, brushing its branches as they moved. The pungent aroma of pine spread through the room as tickles turned to caresses, and protests to gasps of pleasure.

They stripped Doyle, helpless to defend himself with two of them knowing his secret. But he gave as good as he got, and Bodie treacherously changed sides to help bare Patricia, only to find himself attacked by Doyle in his turn.

Bodie feasted on Doyle, running his hand along familiar paths, snatching his own kiss from Doyle when Patricia rolled and gasped as Doyle's hands explored her. He'd last touched Doyle five days ago, before he'd left for Birmingham. A quick fumble in a deserted house after they'd called in about the disappearance of Taylor. Now he had time and licence to touch all he wanted, he and Patricia between them sending Doyle flying, his pleasure more than evident.

His own cock hardened as one of Doyle's hands found him, and Patricia brushed against him. He kissed Doyle's shoulder, then licked his way down to Doyle's hand on Patricia's breast. When Doyle's finger pressed against his mouth, he nipped at it, then sucked it in for a moment, before changing position and finding Doyle's nipple to torment.

Attuned to Doyle's moans, he shifted and eased Patricia to her back, guiding Doyle towards her. This would be quick, then, Doyle too far ahead of them by now to slow down. Patricia's thighs opened as she welcomed Doyle on top of her.

Bodie kissed the back of Doyle's neck, his hand sliding from Doyle's cock, along Patricia's thigh. "That's right, Ray, it's time. Let her take you in, fuck her. And I'll fuck you." He pressed himself against Doyle's back, rubbing his cock along Doyle's skin.

Doyle pushed forward, groaning deep in his throat. Patricia gasped, and she cried out, twisting away from them.

"Wait, wait."

It took a moment for Patricia's voice to penetrate and then Bodie heard Doyle curse as he lifted himself a few scant inches above Patricia, on his elbows, his body trembling with need. Christ, too quick.

He pulled Doyle back, allowing Patricia to turn away. Doyle's eyes were closed, his lungs straining for air, face tight with pain. He writhed in Bodie's grasp, seeking release. Patricia reached for Doyle's cock, her hand tentatively grasping him. Doyle whimpered.

Bodie pushed Doyle to his back, knocking Patricia's hand away. "That's not what he needs." He wrapped his hand around the base of Doyle's cock, then went down on him, taking Doyle's cock into his mouth. Doyle surged beneath him, crying out. Controlling Doyle's thrusts with his hands and weight, Bodie worked Doyle's cock, using mouth and tongue to give Doyle all he needed. Doyle came powerfully, semen bathing Bodie's throat. Bodie took all Doyle would give him, greedy for it, and afterwards he soothed Doyle gently. He felt Doyle's muscles slowly relax, and shaking fingers brushed Bodie's cheek.

Bodie released Doyle's cock and, moving up Doyle's body, he brought his lips to Doyle's mouth, sharing the taste of him. Completely absorbed in the sensual pleasure of Doyle's mouth, he only slowly became aware of Doyle's movements beneath him, of the gentle rhythm that was stimulating him, bringing his attention back to his own need. Bodie sighed into Doyle's mouth, pressing closer to the warmth so sweetly offered to him.

A small sound broke the silence, discordant, unexpected. Doyle tensed, and he broke the kiss. Bodie lowered his forehead to Doyle's shoulder, breathing deeply.

"Patricia." Doyle stretched a hand out to the girl but couldn't reach her where she lay, huddled into herself, watching them. Doyle's hand returned to Bodie's back. "Come and join us."

She looked away. "No."

Doyle met Bodie's eyes and, with a faint sigh, Bodie slid off him, freeing Doyle to go to her. Bodie stared up at the decorated branches above him, and then he turned his head to watch Doyle with Patricia.

Doyle placed his hand on Patricia's shoulder, rubbing gently. "I'm sorry. We left you behind, didn't we?"

"Quite." There was no give to her voice.

"I went up like a bloody rocket, between the two of you." Doyle was being charmingly rueful. Bodie eased into a sitting position, then reached for his clothing.

Patricia looked at Doyle for a moment. "It wasn't me doing that to you." She glanced at Bodie, eyes narrowed, then back at Doyle. "He said you'd shared before."

Doyle's hand stilled on her arm. "Did he?"

She nodded. "He didn't say the woman was nothing but a convenient prop." Pulling away from Doyle, she gathered her clothing.

Doyle sat back on his heels, watching her, his face closing. "You wanted to know. Don't blame Bodie if you don't like what you found out."

Colour spread over her cheeks and down her neck as she looked round at Doyle. "Bodie said you'd blame him, not me. I see he was wrong about one thing."

Doyle stood, picked up his jeans and pulled them on. "If you want to take it that way." He reached for his sweater.

"I don't seem to have much choice." She stood as well, her clothing held in front of her.

Doyle finished dressing, then walked over to her. He leaned close, eyes on hers. "Everything comes down to choices."

"Ray." The beginning of a protest.

"Yours is very simple. Come to bed with us, or ask us to leave." He stood back from her, never looking away.

Her eyes fell. "Leave, then, please."

Without another word, he walked out of the room.

Bodie, dressed again, moved to follow him, but her voice stopped him at the door.

"You're never going to get him like that, Bodie. Even I know that."

Bodie looked back at her, studying her, acknowledging the pride that held her there. Then he smiled and continued out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

He caught up with Doyle just outside the building. The fog was thicker than before, heavy with moisture, but cold with it. Doyle didn't look at him as Bodie fell into step beside him. They walked a while, the fog seeming to mute the normal city sounds. Traffic was light. No one else was on the pavement with them. Crossing a street, they reached Bodie's Capri. Bodie grabbed Doyle's arm as he walked past the car.

"Oi, here's my car. Do you need a lift?"

"No." Doyle pulled away from Bodie and walked on. Bodie looked after him a moment, then hurried to catch up.

"Where're we going, then?"

Doyle stopped walking. "We're not going anywhere. I'll see you at work Saturday, unless we get called in." He moved forward again, leaving Bodie behind. Bodie caught up with him and took hold of his arm. Doyle flung him off. Bodie backed off a step.

"What's the matter with you? Come on, Doyle, let's go back to your flat. Everything'll look better in the morning. It's Christmas, for Christ's sake."


"So, might as well spend it together, right?"

Doyle looked at him a long time, face impassive in the glow of the street light. He dropped his eyes to Bodie's groin. "Oh, yeah, I left you behind, too, didn't I? Want me to return the favour?"

Bodie grinned. "Among other things, yes. Come on, let's get out of here."

Doyle pulled away from Bodie's hand. "Why? Be more exciting out here, wouldn't it? You're into games." He looked around then placed his hand on Bodie's cock, rubbing it.

"Doyle." Bodie caught his breath, glancing around quickly.

"C'mere." Doyle tugged on Bodie's arm and led him up the street to an alley between two buildings. It was narrow and dark and deserted. Doyle pressed Bodie up against the wall, leaning into him.

"Can't leave you unsatisfied, can we?" Doyle's fingers undid the clasp of Bodie's trousers, sliding the zip down, exposing him to the cool, wet air.

Bodie squirmed as Doyle's hands found him, appalled and aroused in equal measure at what was happening. "This wasn't what I had planned."

"I had plans. You fucked those up nicely, didn't you?" Doyle had unzipped Bodie's jacket and was unbuttoning his shirt now, one-handed. His other hand was encouraging Bodie's cock to grow, scratching his balls delicately.

"It wasn't me, mate." Bodie leaned against the wall, head back, his hands on Doyle's shoulders.

Doyle bit Bodie's nipple, his hand covering Bodie's mouth to muffle his yell. "I told you she didn't play games." He licked at the nipple, swirling his tongue over and around it.

"Like you said, it was her choice." Bodie groaned as he tried to thrust into Doyle's hand, but was blocked.

"You orchestrated it from the beginning."

"I set it up, yeah. She jumped at it. Didn't know her quite as well as you thought you did, did you?"

"You made it irresistible for her. Like you always do." Doyle kissed Bodie's mouth, taking possession with his tongue. Bodie arched against the wall and Doyle backed off, leaving only his hand on Bodie's chest. "Not yet."

"Doyle." Bodie closed his eyes, breathing heavily.

Doyle put his mouth against Bodie's ear. "Not yet. I'm going to suck you, going to bring you off in my mouth. But not yet."

"Christ." Doyle's hand was on his cock again, his touch light enough to arouse but not enough of what he needed. He quivered, yearning for more. He grabbed Doyle to bring him closer, to take his mouth, but Doyle broke free and captured one of Bodie's hands, pinning it to the wall above his head.

"Why'd you do it, Bodie? Why try a threesome with Patricia?"

"I don't know. Would you put your mouth to better use for fuck's sake?"

Doyle kissed him, bringing Bodie's tongue into his mouth, sucking on it, then withdrawing. "Why?"

"Christ. I just thought it'd...." Bodie broke off as Doyle's hand clamped around his cock.

"Be fun." Doyle finished the sentence for him, and eased his grip.

"Yeah. Why not? You enjoyed it with Susanne and Chris that time."

Doyle nodded, his hand leaving Bodie's cock to roam his chest, and then back down and around to probe his arse. "You're right, I did. As a one-off. But it's not my scene. I don't like to share." His finger entered Bodie and Bodie thrust forward at the stimulation, finding Doyle's solid body to push against. He thrust forward again--a few more and he'd--

But Doyle's hand found him and pinched his cock, keeping him from coming.

"Doyle!" A strangled cry as Bodie writhed against the wall.

Doyle's mouth was again at his ear, tongue exploring. "Not yet. I told you."

"Then do it." His cock was on fire, hurting with need.

"You got me going just like this, but you knew that, didn't you? You've done it before."

"You've enjoyed it before." Bodie bit the words out, and then he moaned as Doyle moved against him.

"I did. It's the consequences I hate. Come down here with me." Doyle took them both down to the pavement, retaining his hold on Bodie's hand. His mouth navigated Bodie's body, moving from Bodie's mouth to his neck to his chest. Bodie tried to force the pace, to push Doyle's head down, but Doyle resisted. Bodie's back was to the wall, his cock weeping as Doyle took his time, marking Bodie as he went.

"Be patient, Bodie. We're having fun, aren't we? Fun and games, that's what you like. Nothing changes, no harm done."

Bodie said nothing and Doyle resumed his slow progress, finally reaching Bodie's groin, pausing endlessly there, stringing it out. And then he took Bodie's cock in one quick move, one hand covering Bodie's mouth, the other holding tightly to Bodie's hand.

Bodie screamed, and thrust, and came, emptying himself into Doyle's mouth, his release as much pain as pleasure.

Doyle licked at Bodie's cock, releasing it slowly, before withdrawing from Bodie altogether. Bodie gradually got his breathing under control, beginning to feel the pavement under his bum, the wall scraping his back. He didn't want to think what he must look like. He opened his eyes to find Doyle sitting on his heels in front of him, watching him.

"Was it good?" Doyle's face was in shadow, his voice unrevealing.

"Oh yeah. Bloody hell, Doyle, do you have to ask?"

"Good." Doyle stood up. "Because that's the end of it. No more games."

Bodie blinked up at him, trying to order his scattered thoughts. "Meaning what?"

Doyle crouched down next to him again, his voice low. "Meaning no more sex. No more fun and games. It's finished." He stood. "There's your consequences. I'll see you on Saturday." And he walked out of the alley, disappearing into the light and fog, the echo of his footsteps all that remained until they were lost as well.

25 December 1981

Doyle was a dead man. If the Russians didn't kill him first, Bodie most certainly would. Grimly, Bodie wove his way through the woods surrounding Whitley Grange, moving cautiously but steadily towards the house where, according to Cowley's sources, Doyle was being held.

And then what?

You'll save me.

Yeah, but only when your partner's kept in the loop, sunshine.

Summoned from his bed before dawn, he'd been told by Cowley that Doyle had managed to get himself and a DS from the Drugs Squad caught up in a Soviet power struggle, after discovering that the private secretary of a trade minister had been selling defence innovations. Trust Doyle--and on Christmas Day to boot.

"3.7, what's your position?"

Bodie thumbed open his r/t. "Anson and Pennington are in close on the north side. Murphy, Allison and I are edging in from the south. Malone and Reynolds are at the cars. We're ready at any time, sir."

"Very good. Hold off until I give the order."

Bodie looked at the house two hundred yards downhill from him. Smoke swirled up from the chimney pots, and the early morning sun turned the frost to sparkles on the roof line. There was nothing to disturb the peaceful tranquillity, but for the black BMW parked in front of the house, and the agents moving in from two sides. "You're sure Doyle's in there?"

"According to my sources, yes."


"There'll be no action without my order. Is that understood?"

Bodie closed his eyes for a moment. "Yes, sir."

"It won't be long, Bodie. I should be there shortly. Keep me informed. Cowley out."

Bodie forced himself to wait, occupying his time by re-checking the Ingram. He set it to select fire, so he'd be able to pinpoint Andramov if the order came. That was the deal: Cowley would get the secretary in return for making sure that Andramov never bothered his colleagues again. As a side benefit, they'd be given the opportunity to take back Doyle and the DS. It seemed more than a fair deal to Bodie.

Better than the one he and Doyle had been living. He'd thought they'd settled the competitiveness that had begun to dog them--the two of them working together on cases but from different angles, with different approaches. After the Barker fiasco, when he'd been left stranded with Murphy on the chimney, they'd come to better terms. They were Cowley's top team, working smoothly together again, completely professional. And then Diana Molner had taken them back to old memories.

Bodie brought the binoculars to his eyes, surveying the house below him. Two storeys, brick, the country home of Sir Charles Reid. There were stables and paddocks behind the house, with a couple of horses grazing in a sloping meadow. A benign scene for state treason. What the fuck was Doyle doing in that house? What was he doing going in on a Drugs raid with Benny Clark from the Drugs Squad, setting off a powderkeg? Cowley would kill Doyle before Bodie got the chance, come to that. He lowered the binoculars, hand tightening on the Ingram.

The scent of the woods surrounded him, the musty smell of winter, and somewhere a fire was burning. He stared at the house and willed the r/t to signal. He mapped his approach, and where he'd order the others to enter the house. A clean operation, in and out--they'd have to be quick to have any chance at all of bringing Doyle out alive.

Bodie raised his eyes as he heard the whoop of an approaching helicopter. Odd for it to be out on Christmas Day, although it could be a medical flight, or--

His r/t signalled and Anson's voice carried to him. "Movement. They're coming out."

The helicopter. The only open land was the upper meadow behind the house, above the paddock and the meadow with the horses. Bodie set off at a run, shouting orders into the r/t. He'd take Murphy and Allison with him, leaving Anson and Pennington at the house, with the others guarding the road out. The helicopter circled once before descending towards the meadow.

"They've gone in two cars--Land Rover and the BMW. Seven people altogether. Doyle's injured. They're heading towards you, Bodie."

Christ. Bodie ran through the woods, registering but not replying to Cowley's order to move in. If they took Doyle away in the helicopter, they wouldn't be getting him back. He caught movement to his right--Murphy and Allison, keeping up with him. The cars wouldn't be travelling quickly on the dirt track leading to the meadow. With luck, they'd beat Andramov to the helicopter. Blind luck, blind hope, it was all they had sometimes.

Crossing a bridle path, he plunged into the woods on the other side, then vaulted the gate in the hedge around the meadow, followed by Murphy and Allison. They stayed near the cover of the hedge, surveying the meadow. The helicopter had settled in the middle of the meadow, about twenty yards from the end of the dirt track. Wind from the helicopter's blades flattened the grass all around it in great sweeps. Carefully, Bodie and Murphy moved forward, taking up positions on either side of a brick shed. Allison found cover beside a pile of hay bales.

Bodie watched as the Land Rover and BMW pulled up at the end of the track. Doyle was in the Land Rover, along with a balding blond man who looked as battered as Doyle--Clark. Clark tried to steady Doyle as they climbed out of the Land Rover, but his bound hands made it difficult. Doyle's hands were free, but he held his right arm awkwardly--probably broken. A dark-haired man stood by them, gun at the ready, and he was soon joined by another dark-haired man and the driver of the Land Rover. Andramov exited from the BMW, pulling a tall, thin man in a suit along with him. That would be Clifford, the connecting piece, according to Cowley. The driver of the BMW stayed in his car. Andramov gestured towards the helicopter.

The group started off, the Land Rover driver in front, followed by Ivan One, Doyle and Clark, then Andramov, Clifford and Ivan Two. They headed towards the helicopter, their route bringing them closer to Bodie and the others. Bodie steadied the Ingram, tracking his target walking just behind Doyle. Murphy and Allison would fire at his signal, taking out the two Ivans and the driver. Just a little further and the angle would be better for the shot, especially as Clifford faltered and dropped back a bit. They were almost to the helicopter, the driver already ducking below the blades--soon.

And then, suddenly, Clifford bolted from the group, shoving Ivan Two, and running away from the helicopter, towards them and the safety of the woods. The fool had no chance. Andramov gestured to the driver, and turned towards the fleeing man, drawing his gun. The driver grabbed Clark, who struggled, drawing the attention of Ivan One. Doyle moved towards Andramov, inadvertently blocking Bodie's shot.

Swearing, Bodie stepped away from the shed, hoping to draw Doyle's attention. A shout would never be heard over the roar of the helicopter. Aiming at Andramov, he saw Doyle recognise him, and he took his shot just as Andramov levelled his gun at the fleeing man. Honed reactions, split-second timing and decision making--something they'd done well together for six years. It was their edge over all the other agents. And it failed them. Bodie's first bullet struck Doyle, his second and third took out Andramov.

The Ivans fired at him and Bodie dropped to the ground as Murphy and Allison opened fire. It was over in a matter of seconds, both Ivans down, Andramov unmoving, the driver on the ground, hands up, and Clark getting to his feet next to him. Bodie jumped up and ran towards the group with the others following. Allison detoured to the helicopter to stop the pilot from taking off.

Bodie went straight to Doyle, leaving Murphy to secure the Ivans and to follow Clifford. Doyle lay on the ground, blood covering his chest and shoulder, hand at his throat, his breathing quick and shallow. Bodie searched for the wound, for a way to stop the blood from pumping out. He found the entrance hole just above Doyle's collarbone, at the juncture of shoulder and throat. No exit wound. Bodie placed his hand over the bullet hole and pressed hard. Doyle jerked and gasped.

"Lie still."

Doyle's wide eyes found his, staring at him. He could read pain in their depths, and fear, but relief as well. Doyle blinked and made a sound and Bodie quieted him.

"Don't try to speak. You've taken a bullet. We'll get you to hospital, Ray." He was finding it difficult to breathe but his hands were steady on Doyle.

Doyle slowly moved his hand to Bodie's arm, grasping Bodie's wrist. He closed his eyes.

Someone knelt down beside Bodie. "What the hell happened?"

Bodie looked up into Clark's concerned face. His eyes narrowed. "You tell me." Clark started to speak, then stopped himself and sat back on his heels. Bodie returned his attention to Doyle, listened to his breathing, and watched the pale, sweaty face. Doyle's hand still gripped his wrist.

Murphy's voice carried to him. "A helicopter with paramedics is on its way. Just a little longer, Bodie."

He nodded. Doyle's pulse was rapid and thready, his blood pushing against Bodie's hand with each beat of his heart. At least there was blood still to pump.

"Andramov is dead." Murphy again.

Bodie kept his eyes on Doyle. "Yeah. I did the job." He applied more pressure to the wound.

He was conscious of every second passing, of an eternity with every sense fixed on Doyle, willing his lungs to breathe and his heart to pump. And then the paramedics were there, taking over for him, supplying Doyle with oxygen and fluids. Bodie followed them onto the helicopter.

Doyle never looked at him during the flight, never roused from semi-consciousness. Bodie sat beside Doyle, watching the paramedics, watching Doyle. At the hospital they rushed Doyle to A&E and then to surgery, leaving Bodie to find his own way to a waiting room, after washing Doyle's blood from his hands.

There had been a surprising number of people in casualty but none in the waiting room by surgery. Bodie found a vending machine and brought his tea to the room, settling into one of the uncomfortable chairs. There was a discarded newspaper nearby but he ignored it, preferring to sit still.

What the hell happened? Fucking good question, Detective Sergeant. Who'd got Doyle into that situation in the first place? Without backup, without hope of backup--sure enough of that lack to be surprised when he saw Bodie. Surprise leading to delay leading to disaster. Why the fuck couldn't it have been Clark who'd stepped towards Andramov? Macklin was going to eat them alive when he found out--reaction speed shot to hell.

Assuming Doyle--

Bodie reached for the newspaper, glanced at the headline, then folded it neatly and set it aside. Wearily, he looked around the room, at the plastic chairs and tables, the paintings on the walls designed to soothe. Every waiting room had the same oppressive feel to it. These might not be the same chairs but they were familiar nevertheless, and would become more so as time passed. A whole world of experience shrinking down to one room, one view, and one memory: Don't lose your partner.

Bodie crushed his empty tea cup. He located the waste bin by the door, and threw the cup, watching it arc perfectly into the bin. There wasn't anything wrong with his reflexes. He sat back in the chair, controlled his breathing, and began counting ceiling tiles.

Some time later, deep into strategising sabotage of the Hill, and the probable effectiveness of response, Bodie looked up sharply as the door opened. DS Clark walked into the room, one eye blackened and swollen, but otherwise looking unaffected by his captivity. Clark nodded at him; Bodie went back to thinking.

"Have they said anything to you?" Clark sat in a chair across the room from Bodie.

"No. He's in surgery."

"That's all they'd tell me, too." He looked around the room, then returned his gaze to Bodie. "I'm Clark. Benny."

Bodie glanced at him briefly. "On the Drugs Squad with Doyle. I know."

"You're Bodie, then. Ray's partner."


"One of your mob dropped me here--Anson?"

"More than likely."

"Your Mr Cowley spoke with me earlier--interrogating, more like. They're sorting out what to do with Andramov's men, who are claiming diplomatic immunity, of course. Reid bolted."

Bodie stayed silent, letting the words wash over him.

Clark shifted in his chair. "We didn't expect it to go down like that, you know. It was just supposed to be a normal bust."

Looking up at that, Bodie said, "As I understand it, your superiors wouldn't sanction the op."

Benny scowled. "Political pressure. I had information on Jeremy Clifford, on how he was supplying and dealing drugs among the diplomatic corps. But I was told to call off surveillance on him, told to stay away. He was small potatoes, they said."

"Wasn't he?"

"What does that matter? He was dealing. Same justice applies to all, doesn't it?"

"Recreational use. There are bigger busts."

Clark said, flatly, "My informant was killed by Clifford's associates."

"Ah. So this was all for vengeance, was it?"

Clark looked at him, eyes narrowed. "Jamie wasn't important, wasn't connected to the power structure like Clifford is, but his life mattered."

Bodie shrugged. "That's the line to take with Doyle, not me. I see it worked."

"Ray still cares and he was ready to help out an old mate. Even on Christmas Eve, at the last minute." Clark's eyes flickered over Bodie. "He said it was best to leave you out of it, that you wouldn't approve."

"I don't." Doyle had decided not to call him. Bodie's stomach muscles tightened with the realisation. Doyle hadn't hesitated before to bring in Bodie, not with Ann Seaford or Jill Haydon or Preston. Only now. He looked back at Clark. "But if he had called me, he wouldn't be fighting for his life, would he? He wouldn't have stupidly gone into an op without backup."

Clark straightened in his seat. "We had backup, we roused the local nick."

"Oh yeah, good backup that."

"The bust went fine--we caught Clifford in the act, got his books, got at least some of his associates."

"So you got one small time drug dealer out of the diplomatic salons. Brilliant. No doubt your superiors will be pleased."

"It's my job."

"It's not Doyle's."

"No." Clark looked at him hard-eyed. "But he didn't get shot until your lot moved in, did he? Tell me, was it worth keeping Clifford alive to shoot Doyle?"

Bodie held himself very still. "Doyle understands the job."

"The job. Yeah. I heard what you said in the field, when you were giving Doyle first aid. Doing your job. Following bloody orders, no matter the consequences."

It's the dying with it that worries me. Doyle's voice, years ago.

Clark shook his head. "That's thinking like a soldier. Orders and the objective over everything else. Andramov told us CI5 was dealing for Reid, that we were bargaining chips. Expendable. I'll take the Drugs Squad any day."

The knot in his stomach twisted. But Bodie could still feel Doyle's fingers on his wrist, his grip firm but not urgent. There had been no look of betrayal in Doyle's eyes. Bodie focused on Clark. "Don't knock it. He was glad to get out of the Drugs Squad. He couldn't tell one side from the other."

"So he went to CI5 instead? Poor bugger."

"Maybe. But he knows who to trust." He met Clark's eyes, certainty grounding him.

Cowley entered the room, leaving the door open behind him. He looked from Clark to Bodie, face calm. "Doyle is out of surgery, the surgeon will be here shortly. Your superiors wish to speak with you, Sergeant Clark."

Clark grimaced. "Yes, sir. What about Doyle?"

Bodie, watching Cowley, felt his tension ease. Cowley believed in breaking bad news quickly.

"They tell me he should recover. Ah, here is the surgeon now."

A tall, grey-haired man entered the room, nodding at the three of them. Bodie stood but remained quiet as Cowley greeted the surgeon.

"Mr Stevenson, what can you tell us?"

"The surgery went very well. Mr Doyle is in recovery and should be moved to a private room shortly. It required delicate surgery to remove the bullet and to repair the damage done to his vertebral artery. Mr Doyle was very fortunate, however--he received prompt care in the field and in A&E, and there was no other major damage. Bruises from the beating, of course, but no other internal injuries. We will monitor him carefully tonight but I anticipate no problems. He will take longer to recover from his broken arm than from the bullet wound."

"When can we see him?" Clark voiced the question.

"It would be best to wait until tomorrow. Is there anything else?"

Cowley shook his head. "No, thank you, Doctor."

Stevenson nodded to them all again, then left the room, closing the door behind him.

Bodie looked at Cowley. "Security?"

"Aye, I've already made arrangements. Unnecessary, perhaps, but I want no more surprises." Cowley turned to face Clark. "I have a car waiting below for you. As I stated, your superiors are anxious to meet with you."

Clark eyed him with dismay. "They came in on Christmas Day? Oh, sh--" He swallowed his words hastily.

Cowley smiled thinly. "I have already thanked them for your assistance with our investigations of Jeremy Clifford and Sir Charles Reid."

"You what?"

"Are you surprised? Doyle used CI5 authority to bring reinforcements on your raid of Clifford's meeting with his associates. We were, of course, after larger fish."

"Of course." Clark was gaping.

"Clifford, facing charges, is now giving us all the information we need on Sir Charles' activities with the Soviets. Sir Charles was apprehended an hour ago at the Charles De Gaulle airport. He will be arriving back in England shortly." Cowley moved forward a few steps. "You won't hear it repeated outside this room, but I am obliged to you."

"Obliged!" Bodie moved, then stood still.

"Aye, Bodie. Sir Charles' activities have done a great deal of damage. I may not approve of the methods but I won't discount the results."

Clark blew out a breath. "I hope my superiors feel the same way."

"They are understandably annoyed but they have already proven amenable to pressure, haven't they? I believe you need feel no trepidation in meeting with them now." Cowley gestured towards the door and Clark, with a mournful look, left the room.

Bodie folded his arms as Cowley turned to him.

"Doyle never contacted you?"

Bodie shook his head.

"Nor me. The damned fool! What was he playing at with the Drugs Squad?"

"I thought you were obliged to them."

"Don't be ridiculous. Oh, aye, I am glad we caught Reid--that leak of defence secrets has been a trouble spot for years. I know of several men who have been under suspicion. We never considered a link to the Patent Office. But the whole thing was a mess from beginning to end. If Vagin hadn't contacted me, hoping to be rid of Andramov, we would have been too late."

"Clark told me he'd been warned off Clifford. Political pressure, he called it."

Cowley waved his hand impatiently. "Yes. Reid orchestrated that, with help from Andramov. This drugs business was a new sideline of theirs--feathering their nests before retirement, most likely. But Andramov overplayed his hand with his colleagues."

"Then without the bust, without Clifford...."

"It all falls apart. We would never have discovered the leak and the Soviets wouldn't have handed us Reid and Andramov."

"In other words, you're obliged to Doyle as well."

Cowley glared at him. "That's another matter entirely. I can't have agents joining other ops, flaunting their power of authority--"

"Finding Soviet spy rings on hunches."

Cowley ground to a halt, then nodded reluctantly. "That's the official line, yes. But Doyle--"

Bodie shrugged. "You know very well Doyle never would have kept it from you if he'd known how large it all was."

Cowley slapped his hand on the wall. "It doesn't matter how small it was, he should have come to me. This is a serious violation, Bodie. I won't tolerate agents going their own way, abusing their authority. It doesn't matter if you are my best team--that makes it all the worse. As it is, I wouldn't have thought it of Doyle."

"Clark's superiors caved to the pressure."

Cowley looked at him sharply. "Your point?"

"Clark said Andramov told them he was dealing with CI5--or the Soviets were--for Reid."

"Yes. Andramov was in touch with his colleagues after everything blew up with Clifford's arrest."

Bodie held his eyes. "Doyle took Diana Molner's death very hard."

Cowley's expression hardened. "As did we all."

"Not like Doyle."

They stared at each other, long seconds passing before Cowley's eyes dropped. "I'll have a word with Doyle when he's recovered. Fortunately for him, I am grateful to him and to DS Clark both."

Bodie nodded, breathing more easily as he saw Cowley's face relax. The ends did justify the means in Cowley's book, as long as the means harmed no one but the agents involved.

"The Soviets are obliged to you for killing Andramov." Cowley spoke abruptly.

Bodie looked again at Cowley, seeing the odd combination of affection and probing ruthlessness that characterised Cowley's relationship with his agents.

"Are they?" He'd give Cowley nothing more than that. The price for obedience had been too high this time.

Cowley nodded, and then he moved forward and patted Bodie on the arm. "I'll take you home." He turned towards the door.

Bodie followed in Cowley's wake. "Drop me off at Doyle's. I'll see to his flat and bundle up some clothes for him."

"Very well."

It was quiet on the dusk-darkened streets and quiet in the car as well, each of them occupied with his own thoughts. Bodie had cancelled his plans with Marie when Cowley had called. He'd have to remember to send her flowers after Boxing Day. Or perhaps not--agreeing to spend Christmas Day with her had been a mistake, anyway. He wouldn't mind some time on his own. With Doyle in hospital, he'd be partnered with others on the job. He'd need the down time.

Doyle would be all right, he'd recover. He'd suffer longer with the broken arm than the bullet wound. More importantly, the location of the wound proved that he and Doyle still could read each other, still knew which way to jump. If Doyle hadn't moved at all.... Bodie consciously relaxed his hands. Doyle had seen him, had understood--speed and timing could be worked out in training.

Cowley dropped him at Doyle's flat, and told him he wouldn't expect Bodie for two days. Bodie nodded. He pulled Doyle's keys from his pocket and turned towards the building.

"Bodie." Cowley's voice stopped him and he turned back to the car.


Cowley pointed down the street. Bodie followed the gesture and saw his Capri parked at the side of the street. He turned back to Cowley.

"I anticipated your request." Cowley studied him for a moment. "You'll see Doyle tomorrow?"

"Yeah, of course. He'll expect grapes and dirty magazines, you know. From his partner." Bodie winked, the muscles in his face feeling stiff, wishing only that Cowley would leave.

"Of course." Cowley studied him, his expression sombre, but then he faced forward again. "Good night, lad."

"Good night, sir."

Doyle's flat was dark and cold. He fumbled with the lights, unfamiliar with the layout. Doyle had moved into the flat only a few months ago. Light revealed the main room to be in its usual state of neat clutter. Doyle liked finding objets d'art to scatter about on his tables and bookcases--an eclectic collection that defied definition. The toy soldiers and cannon were new. Bodie picked one of the soldiers up, admiring the heft and the workmanship. He placed it back on the table and wandered through to the kitchen.

They had long ago established a routine for when one or the other was in hospital for any length of time. He'd see to Doyle's flat--turn the heating off, dispose of the perishables, make everything tidy for Doyle's eventual return. Bodie would restock the refrigerator and larder the day before Doyle's release. On the table, Bodie found the remains of a pasta dish, along with a half-filled glass of wine. He threw out the food, drank the wine, and washed the dishes.

With the kitchen finished, that left only Doyle's clothes to gather. He started towards the bedroom, then detoured to the living room once again, and to the drinks cabinet. Bodie helped himself to a liberal portion of scotch.

If Cowley had let them go in earlier for Doyle, he might not have been shot. Certainly wouldn't have been shot by Bodie. Were the orders to wait based on strategy or political manoeuvring?

Bodie sat on the sofa, scotch in hand, and surveyed the room. He was familiar with most of the furnishings, most of the collectibles, most of the books come to that. He'd found his own copy of Smiley's People beside Doyle's abandoned Christmas Eve dinner. They'd made love on this sofa. Before.

No more games.

Bodie placed his glass down on the end table, spilling the scotch. Yeah, no more games. But who in fuck's name had started the games? Doyle had conveniently forgotten that when he'd laid down the law, hadn't he? He'd just decided, for both of them, that they were finished, that sex had been a mistake for them. They hadn't had any disaster like this when they were having sex, no miscommunication or slowed reflexes.

Although Christ knew Doyle hadn't been affected by the end of their sexual relationship. Why should he have been? He'd called all the shots, got everything his way. Including the repeat performance.

Bodie reached for his glass and drank the rest of his scotch. After Diana Molner had died, after they'd heard Cowley's explanation, they'd gone to Bodie's local for food and drink--drink especially. Doyle had walked him to his flat and Bodie had invited him in. They had got that far again, to the desire to stay together rather than go their separate ways after an op.

He hadn't believed Doyle had been serious, breaking it off between them. But Doyle had proven it to him, never budging from that glacial stubbornness, no give or warmth to him. Until that night, with the fury of betrayal riding high in him.

Closing the door of the flat, in the darkness, it'd been natural to reach out to Doyle, to find him. He hadn't expected to find Doyle bringing him close, his grip urgent, his need undeniable. They hadn't touched like that in nearly a year--a year of dating women and re-establishing contact with a few discreet ex-soldiers. A year of watching for Doyle's reactions when Bodie had shown up for work marked, or talked about his exploits just as he'd always done. A year of cursing himself for looking for a reaction, and finding none.

And so it had been sweet justice to hear Doyle asking to be held, asking to fuck him, and he'd agreed to the terms of a one-night stand. Bodie had expected wildness, the same recklessness that Doyle had always shown in similar circumstances. But the loving had been oddly muted, gentle; Doyle's need for it obvious. They'd fallen asleep afterwards, in silence. And in the morning, he'd found himself alone in his bed. Neither of them ever referred to that night by word or look. Everything was back to the status quo that Doyle had dictated, the familiar distance.

Bodie stood, leaving his empty glass where it was. He wasn't any man's pawn--not Cowley's, certainly not Doyle's. He'd agreed to follow Cowley's orders, for as long as the contract lasted. As for Doyle, he'd chosen his position, he'd drawn his line--only to violate it when the need arose. But no longer. Bodie wasn't going to be used like that again. Doyle couldn't have it both ways.

He walked down the hallway to Doyle's bedroom, switching on the light as he entered. He'd gather a change of clothes and leave--go home and sleep. Crossing to the cupboard, he pulled out the overnight bag Doyle kept on the top shelf. He found a pair of jeans, shirt, pants and socks and filled the bag. He'd collect the toiletries and be on his way. As he turned to leave, his eye fell on the framed copy of "Desiderata" that hung on Doyle's wall.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Bodie stared at the poem, hand tightening on the bag. Doyle had jumped him when he'd given the poem to him for Christmas five years ago, calling him a maniac--and the poet far worse. Doyle had had it framed and had put it on his bedroom wall, taking great pleasure in quoting the entire thing to Bodie, usually at four in the morning.

And every Christmas.

Oh Christ. Bodie stood unseeing for a moment, and then he hurried out of the bedroom and back to the living room, confirming what he already knew to be the truth: there was no Christmas tree.

Doyle didn't have a bird right now; he'd told Bodie he was spending Christmas catching up on sleep. He'd joked about it, but the weariness had been obvious. Too tired, then, to find a tree....

You have to have a proper Christmas, she'd say.

I reckon that's one promise that'll be kept.

It was like a knife slicing into his guts, the pain that caught him unaware, sending him to his knees on Doyle's living room floor. Why had Doyle been so surprised when he'd seen Bodie at Whitley? He knew CI5 had been alerted. But he hadn't called Bodie for backup, he hadn't trusted Cowley--he'd known the pressure was on, and the deals. It had been more than surprise that had caused Doyle to hesitate.

Lack of faith, not trust. His own voice, after Marikka, echoed in his mind. Doyle understood the distinction now; blind hope no longer had a place in Doyle's world.

Doyle, who had expected Cowley's betrayal to mean something.

And when you can't trust him, there's still me.

Doyle had expected him to follow Cowley's orders, had even bloody well forgiven him for it. And the damning truth was, he had followed orders.

Bodie closed his eyes, pushing breath past the constriction in his throat and gut.

He'd made other promises to Doyle. They'd deal with the ghosts, he'd said, but then Marikka had come, and Williams had died, and Keller had resurfaced. And everything between them had changed, despite promises.

No more games.

It's the consequences I hate.

It hadn't been Doyle's shame for giving into need that had made the sex so different that night after Diana Molner. It'd been despair.

Lack of faith.

Sally's bell kept in the dark this year, and forever more.


Bodie climbed to his feet. He went to the loo, collected Doyle's toothbrush and other necessities, then returned to Doyle's bedroom and the abandoned bag. After packing everything, he searched for the box he remembered from previous Christmases. He found it under the bed at last, after he'd begun to fear it was lost. Opening the box, he found the wrapped bell, taking it out and placing it carefully in the bag. He tucked the box away again and returned to the living room. Lights off, door locked, he took the lift down, then walked to his car.

I do learn, Doyle. There was a promise to start with. Go back to the beginning.

Nothing was open the evening of Christmas Day, of course. In the end, he had to settle for nicking the top of an unsold tree at a greengrocer's. He took it home and fashioned a stand, of sorts, with skewers, a cardboard box and a bowl to hold the water. The tree was little more than a branch with two twigs, but it would do. It was pine, at least.

The nursing sister was dubious at the hospital, but responsive to charm and persuasion, especially with a CI5 ID to back him up. He entered Doyle's room, dimly lit to encourage sleep. Doyle lay on the bed, asleep, hooked to a monitor and IV fluids, his neck bandaged. Bodie paused by Doyle's bed, watching the rise and fall of the sheet over his chest, eye lingering over the planes of Doyle's face.

He'd thought Doyle predictable once upon a time, had thought he could read his thoughts clearly, only to learn differently. So he'd begun anew. He'd become an avid Doyle-watcher, and slowly he'd rebuilt his certainty, only to find he'd been blind to the most important signs after all.

I don't like to share.

No, he didn't. Nor did Doyle give second chances.

But then he wasn't doing this for Doyle's approval.

Bodie set the makeshift tree on the stand next to Doyle's bed, wrapping tinsel around the base. And he hung the silent Christmas bell where Doyle would see it first thing.

He returned to the bed, pulling a chair close. Doyle wouldn't begrudge him this--he'd never sought to exclude Bodie from his life, just to protect himself. Bodie reached out a hand to Doyle, stopping short of touching him. He settled for brushing across his hair, fleetingly, needing some contact. Just once.

The only person he could change was himself, the only actions he could control were his own. He saw himself with clarity now, knew his own desires and the strength he would need to govern them. It was a peace he had never known, this clarity of sight. A part of him feared to test it, to probe it too deeply in case it vanished. But that was the place of vigilance, and the soldier's role.

"Everything's changed, Ray." He whispered the words, echoing the past, promising the future.

The only gift he could give.

26 December 1982

Quietly, but swiftly, Bodie let himself into Doyle's room at Browns. With the door clicking softly shut behind him, he hesitated, giving his eyes time to adjust to the semi-dark. The only light came from street lamps outside, through a gap in the curtains. The clouds and stormy weather had finally lifted just after midnight, and so Bodie had come to warn his partner the op was on. And to get Doyle's fucking head on straight.

He crossed to the bed, watching Doyle, both relieved and irritated that he hadn't stirred, hadn't noticed Bodie's invasion. He placed one hand over Doyle's mouth, the other along Doyle's cheek to give their waking signal. Doyle's jerk was enough to prove how deeply he'd been asleep. Bodie's irritation grew, mingling with the frustration of days of waiting in London while Doyle had been undercover and unreachable. The frustration, too, of knowing that Doyle had nearly blown it last night, losing his rag and confronting the driver of the van that had caused Sir Peter's car to swerve off the road in a minor accident. It had been completely in-character for Doyle; completely out of character for Michael Hughes.

Cowley had glared at Bodie, after hearing Murphy's report. "Get to Doyle. Tell him when Hanish will arrive. And get him to stop behaving like a bloody prima donna!"

Doyle moved beneath his hands, and Bodie let him up, stepping back from the bed. Doyle shook his head, rubbed his eyes, then eased from the bed. He signalled Bodie to follow him as he turned for the loo. Bodie's eyes narrowed as he saw that Doyle was moving stiffly, and attempting to hide it. That was another thing they had to discuss, but after the op.

He'd felt Doyle's pulse for a moment, when his hand had been on Doyle's cheek. One finger slipping down to check, a habit that he couldn't break. Two shootings in one year, and Doyle had technically died on the operating table the second time. That, too, something they never talked about.

Doyle winced as he flipped the light switch for the bathroom. He crossed to the toilet. Bodie leaned against the door-jamb and waited, arms folded. Doyle ignored him, going about his business. He was dressed in dark tracksuit bottoms, his chest and feet bare. Bodie watched his back, eyes wandering over the unfamiliarity of Doyle's shortened and tamed hair, darkened too, to turn Doyle into Michael Hughes, bookseller from Oxford. But it was still Doyle's face, and Doyle's eyes glittering at him with ill-temper. Sleep hadn't improved his mood, then.

Bodie straightened, closed the door, and walked towards the bath as Doyle flushed the toilet. He turned on the tap for the bath, and let it run for a moment, before he activated the shower. At last check, there had been two bugs in the room, none in the loo. One bug was CI5-issue. The other was the subject of much speculation. Bodie turned as Doyle came up close to him.

"You'd better not be telling me Hanish still can't get through," Doyle whispered, his breath tickling Bodie's ear. Bodie placed his hands on Doyle's back, pulling him close, feeling the tension in his muscles.

"The op's on. Hanish will be here in a couple of hours." A tremor as Doyle's muscles tightened, then relaxed.

"About bloody time."

"I'll say. Cowley's ready to pull you."

Doyle tried to step back, but Bodie didn't release him. "Like hell."

Bodie shrugged. "Suit yourself. I'm staying far away when you report in." He lifted his hands and Doyle pulled away.

After a quick, sharp look at Bodie, Doyle turned and roamed the bathroom, his right hand rubbing through his shortened hair. Bodie watched him, taking in Doyle's nerves. In the pit of his stomach, he could feel tension coiling.

Doyle had been undercover five days, in an op that was supposed to have only lasted two. He had been the closest match CI5 had to Hughes, right down to the ability to pass as left-handed. Hughes had an established business with Dr Hanish, adding to his collection of rare books, the one indulgence of the Palestinian leader. They had developed a cordial relationship through correspondence and Hughes had looked forward to his first opportunity to meet Hanish in person. He had planned to deliver to Hanish the first edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson that Hanish, in turn, had wanted to present as a gift to Sir Peter Stanton. Cowley, though, had got wind of Hanish's unauthorised flying visit, and, more importantly, the whisper of a kill. Persuaded by Cowley, Hughes had co-operated in aiding Doyle's charade, to allow Cowley an operative on the inside, unknown to Sir Peter. Sir Peter had been told that Cowley was, unofficially, in charge of escorting Hanish to the meeting with Sir Peter's party. A meeting that should have taken place before Christmas, and was now scheduled for Boxing Day. Doyle had been entertained at Sir Peter's country house, then transported to London with the others on Christmas Day. Five days as Hughes.

Bodie grabbed Doyle's right arm as he passed him, hauling Doyle in close again. "What the fuck are you playing at?" He forced Doyle's hand to repeat the brush through his hair. "Stay in character, Doyle."

"I have!" Doyle wrenched his arm out of Bodie's grasp, but stayed close, his whisper fierce. "I've done all right."

Bodie looked at him, mouth tight.

"All right. Yeah, I nearly blew it last night. But it's handled. I handled it." Doyle glared at him. "Look, thanks for the message. I've got to get ready." He turned away from Bodie, collecting a towel from the pile on the shelf by the toilet to place on the towel rail.

Bodie moved a step forward, reaching for Doyle's shoulder. Doyle jumped at Bodie's touch, twisting around to face him, irritation obvious. Bodie grabbed hold of Doyle's upper arm, the muscles tight and hard. "No."

"What the fuck does that mean?"

"You're not handling it." Bodie ran his free hand over Doyle's chest, moving up to cup his neck, feeling the tendons there. "You're not handling it at all."

"Bugger off, Bodie."

Doyle pulled back but Bodie's grip tightened. He stared at Doyle's shuttered face, at the old, familiar wildness in Doyle's eyes--fear and desire and defiance mixed--and something broke loose inside him. He pushed Doyle against the wall, trapping one of Doyle's hands behind him. Capturing the other, he pinned it to the wall, above Doyle's head, his grip tight enough to bruise. He covered Doyle, claiming his mouth, his weight holding Doyle as he struggled.

Doyle's muscles strained against his as he resisted, but his mouth, passive at first, opened for Bodie's tongue. Bodie took immediate advantage, plundering Doyle's mouth, rubbing himself against Doyle, blanketing him, giving him nothing but sensation, all power and muscle and hardness.

It had been a year. More than a year, since he had touched Doyle like this. No, not like this, this was all about taking and it wasn't what he'd thought he wanted. But, by God, now he did, and he would. A year of giving, of holding back, of waiting. It was over. All of it, maybe.

Bodie's mouth moved from Doyle's, travelled to his neck, to his chest, biting as he went, Doyle already writhing. His left hand still holding Doyle's wrist, he used his right to pull the tracksuit down, grasping Doyle's cock, pulling on it, bringing him to full arousal in a matter of seconds. Doyle's head was against the wall, moving side to side, his back arching, his throat exposed to Bodie's mouth. Bodie stopped just short of marking Doyle, retaining that much sense, but he knew exactly what to do to free the reckless need in Doyle.

He let go of Doyle's wrist. Doyle's hand went immediately to Bodie's head, pushing him down, and Bodie went with it, engulfing Doyle's cock with his mouth. Doyle's hand clenched in Bodie's hair. Bodie released the cock for a moment, glancing up at Doyle's anguished face. Eyes closed, mouth clenched, Doyle was alive with passion, lost to it, all restraint gone. Bodie stroked Doyle's cock with his hand, moistening his fingers, then took Doyle into his mouth again. He rode Doyle's thrusts, barely controlling them, one hand on Doyle's cock, the other on his arse, pushing inside him. And Doyle came, filling him, echoing a time when there had been nothing but sweetness in this act.

Bodie rose to his feet as Doyle collapsed against the wall, shaking. Bodie undid his trousers, released his own cock, spitting on his hand before he touched himself, prepared himself. Doyle's eyes didn't open, but he turned at Bodie's touch, facing the wall, setting his stance.

Two years since he'd last fucked Doyle--he'd be tight, but Bodie didn't care, was beyond caring, and Doyle didn't object as Bodie pressed into him. But he heard the faint, deep sound from Doyle, and Bodie paused, held still, gave Doyle's muscles time to relax. Bodie's arms snaked around Doyle, around belly and neck, and Doyle's mouth found his arm, latching on to it as Bodie thrust into him, stronger and deeper each time.

Bodie gloried in the heat of it, the smell of it, the sheer bloody power of it, gripping Doyle hard, pounding into him. And when he came, he felt Doyle's teeth sink into his arm, keeping Doyle silent. Bodie stayed there, pressed against Doyle, pressed against the wall. A heartbeat, two, five. Breathing into Doyle's throat, he held him, feeling the quiver of muscles pushed too hard, too fast.

With a final lick, Bodie eased away from Doyle, slid from him, and reached for a cloth to wipe himself. He watched as Doyle leaned against the wall for a moment longer, before he slowly turned. He didn't want to look into Doyle's eyes. Bodie concentrated on cleaning himself up and tucking himself away. There was still a pounding in his ears, a sense of unreality, as if he'd survived a firefight against all odds.

Crossing to the basin, Bodie rinsed the cloth. He returned to Doyle, who was still leaning against the wall, head back, eyes closed. Bodie approached him and touched him, gentle now, tentative. Doyle opened his eyes, gazing at the ceiling, breathing still irregular. Bodie turned Doyle to the wall again, cleaned him and checked for any damage, relieved when he found none. He pulled Doyle's tracksuit up and then, as he straightened, Doyle turned around. Pivoting, Bodie tossed the cloth into the basin. He felt Doyle's hand settle lightly on his shoulder, and he stood still, in limbo. Then he turned to meet Doyle's eyes, and wished he hadn't. He didn't know if Doyle even saw him, really.

Bodie cleared his throat, shying away from Doyle's gaze. "How're your nerves?"


"Good. You've an op to finish."

He swung away but Doyle pulled him close again, one hand on his arm, gripping hard. He stared into green eyes that had lost none of their wildness. "Heroin would've done the trick, you know." Doyle's voice bit into him. "Cleaner, too." And Doyle released him and walked to the bath. He stripped, pulled back the bath curtain, and disappeared into the shower.

Bodie left the bathroom and then the room, after checking to be sure no one was in the hallway outside. He was to meet Hanish in an hour.

By noon the op was over. Bodie walked out of CI5 HQ with a bandaged arm and a message from Doyle to meet him at his flat. The attempt on Hanish had materialised at Browns, at the meeting between Sir Peter, Hughes and Hanish. Sir Peter's secretary was being interrogated, along with a member of the Foreign Office. Four men, including Hanish's most trusted operative, Ahmed, were in body bags, awaiting disposition. Ahmed, the operative they'd met once, years ago, whose brother-in-law had died in Hanish's service. Ahmed, who believed Hanish had betrayed the cause he was willing to kill and die for.

Bodie moved his shoulder, seeking to stretch the ache without jarring his upper arm. It was a crease only, treated by medical personnel at CI5. He'd been hit when chasing Ahmed's remaining associates, finally cornering them, with the help of the backup team sent by Cowley. By the time he'd arrived back at the hotel, Doyle and Cowley had already left with Hanish and Sir Peter, on their way to Heathrow and a meeting with the real Michael Hughes. Bodie had directed the cleanup.

Ahmed hadn't recognised Doyle at first, hadn't looked beneath the glasses and the short, dark hair. That's all that had given them an edge when, at the meeting, it had all gone sour. A moment's surprise. And the use of Doyle's right hand, left free by the secretary who'd tried to intervene. Ahmed had died by Doyle's gun, releasing Bodie to act in concert with Doyle against the others, saving Hanish and Sir Peter.

Teamwork, smooth efficiency, nerves controlled; Cowley had been pleased. Cowley had no idea of the price.

Bodie settled into the Capri and started the motor. For a moment he idled it, waiting for the heater to kick in, waiting to decide which way to turn. But he didn't really have a choice, did he? He headed for Doyle's flat.

He needed sleep, certainly needed it before facing Doyle again today. Come to my flat had been Doyle's message, via Julia. It told him nothing of what to expect. He'd used Doyle this morning, whatever his own justification. And Doyle had struck back, going for the jugular as always. Honours even. Doyle would recognise that, move and counter move in the hidden game they were playing. Therefore, Doyle should be staying away from him now, turning his back on him if he tried to approach. Unless.... Bodie's hands tightened on the steering wheel. Doyle must've heard that Bodie had been injured--that was always the leveller between them. Softness and guilt working their influence on Doyle, just as, sometimes, need and fear worked on Bodie.

There was nothing quite so pathetic as a fool landing in a trap of his own making. That could be said of either of them.

Forcing his way into the traffic flow round Hyde Park Corner, Bodie headed south towards Victoria. Doyle had learned from his mistake last year, had brought both Cowley and Bodie in to help Jack Stone and his family this year. Doyle and Cowley, in fact, seemed to be operating on a different level now, the tension between them gone as if it had never existed. Whether that indicated renewed trust or not, Bodie couldn't say.

He and Doyle were operating differently now, too. On the job, for the most part, their teamwork was flawless. He wouldn't have trusted anyone else to catch the canister Lawson held; wouldn't have saved Hanish today working with anyone else. But off the job all bets were off, unpredictability the hallmark. Doyle might as easily accompany him to a pub as walk away; Bodie might as easily sling an arm around Doyle's shoulders as stand apart. They were together and they were alone, an uneasy, unsettled connection that was, nevertheless, unbreakable. He didn't know if the same could be said about himself, or Doyle.

Arriving at Doyle's street, Bodie found a parking space fairly close to the flat. He could see the tree and fairy lights through Doyle's window, cheery on a grim, grey day. He let himself into the building with the key Cowley had given him when Doyle had moved into this flat.

The flat was silent but warm as he stepped inside. Bodie crossed to the lounge and found Doyle there, asleep on the sofa. He paused by the door, loath to disturb him. Doyle still hadn't regained all the weight he'd lost after the shooting, his face more angular than before, the unfamiliar short hair accentuating that. But he'd passed all the fitness tests, was up to Squad standards, if not his own.

Quietly, Bodie crossed the room, seeing Doyle stir at his approach. Doyle blinked at him, then sat up with an easy smile. Bodie turned towards the drinks cabinet.

"Want something?" Bodie filled a glass with whisky.

"Nah. Everything all right at HQ?" Doyle sounded sleepy. Bodie released his breath.

"Yeah. Cowley's pleased."

"So he said. He still gave me a rollicking, though."

Bodie turned back to Doyle, glass in hand. "He would."

"Yeah." Doyle looked around the room, vaguely, as if he'd forgotten what he'd intended to say. He rubbed his shoulder, reaching under the neck of the sweater he wore. He looked rumpled and half-awake, in jeans and a sweater, with white socks on his feet. He looked approachable.

Bodie drank half his whisky in a quick motion. "What is it you wanted?"

Doyle peered across the room at him, smile lingering. Bodie felt the tightness in his stomach again, and the burning of exhaustion in his eyes.

"C'mon Doyle, Julia said you asked me to stop by. So here I am. What do you want?"

The smile disappeared. "Thought we were having Christmas together."

"Yeah, well." Bodie finished his drink. "It's after Christmas, isn't it? I'm going home to sleep." He set the glass down. "I'll catch up with you tomorrow."

"Stay. I'll make you dinner. We'll have a quiet day at home."

And it hurt, God how it hurt, to hear the casual tone, the casual inclusion, all the worse for its sincerity. Because he knew how to change it, how to wreck it, how easy it would be. It didn't mean anything, did it? He was too tired to deal with that today. "No."

"You can sleep here." Soft voice, soft words. Bodie closed his eyes, cutting Doyle from his sight. He'd come, he was here, but he wasn't a fucking martyr.

"With you?" He opened his eyes then, zeroing in on Doyle's unnaturally still face. But it was far too late for Doyle to attempt to hide anything from him. He smiled tightly. "Yeah, that's what I thought."

Doyle pulled his boots on, then jumped to his feet, his movements quick and jerky with tension. Bodie knew a moment's regret--Doyle's exhaustion was all too clear. But the words were out, and he wouldn't change them.

Doyle walked away, then back. "What is it you want from me, Bodie?"

Bodie snorted. Christ. "Leave off the shrinking virgin bit, Doyle. Look, I'm going home."

"No." Doyle moved towards him, stopping directly in front of Bodie. "Stay."

Bitterness fed the anger within him. Anger at his own weakness and at Doyle's knowledge of it. "Fuck you, Doyle."

The blessed hardness came into Doyle's face then, the hardness he could deal with. "You already did that."

"So I did. Time for a second round, is it?"

Doyle stared at him, eyes unreadable. "Is that what you want?"

"Ah, Ray." Bodie reached out but didn't quite touch him before letting his hand drop. Doyle stood his ground. "What would you do if I said yes?" He read the unease in Doyle's face. "Don't worry, petal, I'm not interested tonight." He turned away, heading for the door.

"Aren't you?" Doyle's voice stopped him, the certainty in it acting like a prod.

"Don't fuck with me, Doyle." He turned around.

Doyle tilted his head, hands on his hips. "That's reserved for you, is it?"

Bodie moved in close to Doyle, feeling restraint and sense crashing all around him, a surge of joy in the attack, in not thinking. "Who are you really angry with, Doyle? Me for getting to you, or you for wanting it? Two years, Ray, and I can still drive you out of your mind. Get you so crazy you'd let me do anything to you, wouldn't you? You'd beg me."

Doyle's hands clenched at his side, he opened his mouth but Bodie overrode him. "Gave you your fix, didn't I?"

"You bastard. You took what you wanted." There was no heat to Doyle's voice; no give, either.

"Oh yeah, we're well matched there, aren't we, sunshine?" He reached out again, purposefully invading the icy remoteness of the man so close to him.

Doyle shoved him away, ice consumed by fire. "Fuck off!"

Bodie regained his balance. "Back to the shrinking virgin, are we?"

For a moment, violence threatened, and then Doyle pushed past him, grabbed his jacket from the chair and left the lounge. Seconds later, the door to the flat slammed shut, and, like a freezer door closing, it consumed all the heat, sucked everything into a frozen vacuum.

Silence, pressing silence, emptiness. Bodie stared at nothing, concentrating on breathing. Maybe faith, once lost, was impossible to restore. The insidious thought kept coming back, stronger each time. Doyle walking away from him; Doyle thinking he'd let Williams shoot him; Doyle forgetting to set his second lock. But then, sometimes, there was proof of the connection: a moving finger telling him all he needed to know, Doyle certain he would understand. Doyle trusting him. And they'd climb onto the carousel again, an endless cycle.

Bodie stayed. He would be here tomorrow. He wouldn't be Doyle's martyr but he'd be damned if he'd break faith.

Gradually, Bodie's eyes focused and he found himself staring at the Christmas tree. The tree he'd put up and decorated for Doyle only three days ago, in anticipation of the op ending. Sally's bell, of course, took pride of place towards the top, front centre. Doyle had given Bodie his past with that bell, had opened to him for the first time; Bodie had given his faith to Doyle, with that bell, had hoped that would be enough.

He took a deep breath. Well. It'd been a bad day. He'd be stronger tomorrow--Doyle would be too. They'd climb aboard again tomorrow.

And then he heard movement behind him, the squeak of leather, and footsteps on carpet. Bodie didn't turn; he knew who it was, but a pain sliced through him, just as it had when the door had closed. He blinked his eyes, trying to clear a space in his exhausted brain.

"We're both too knackered for this." Doyle's voice, raw but quiet, touching the deepest part of him. "Sleep first, mate, and then we'll fight. All right?" Doyle's hand brushed his shoulder, a rare gesture.

Bodie could feel a pounding in his head, almost like words: Don't. Don't. Keep quiet. Quiet, quiet. But the plea came, anyway: "Come to bed with me, Ray. Keep me company."

A sigh behind him, and then Doyle's hand settled on his shoulder and travelled down to touch Bodie's hand. "All right."

Christ and he had no defence against that soft voice, no way to protect himself from a soft-hearted Doyle. Not when his pride rolled over even for pity. Not on a day when his strength had ebbed beyond reach, and he couldn't even count on Doyle to stay hard and remote.

So Bodie was silent as Doyle led him through the flat to his bedroom, wishing only for this moment to be real. Doyle closed the curtains, darkening the room as Bodie took off his jacket and his holster and his polo-neck. He heard a quick intake of breath from Doyle and looked up, hands on his zip. Doyle was staring at him, his face shadowed.

"Where'd you get that?" It was said quietly, almost a whisper.

Bodie glanced at the bandage on his arm. "A crease. It's nothing. Frasier saw to it." He hesitated a moment but Doyle said nothing, and so he finished with the zip and his trousers. Then he looked at Doyle, standing silent and still. "I'm all right." Doyle nodded, and he turned away. Bodie let his breath out, walked to the bed and slid under the duvet, the bottom sheet icy on his bare skin. Doyle undressed, then joined him in the bed.

They lay on their backs side by side, cold space between them. Bodie wanted to touch, wanted proof of the warmth so close and yet so far away, proof of what he'd once taken for granted. He restrained himself, lying still. Gradually, the duvet warmed him but his left hand was cold, pressed to the bottom sheet, fingers splayed. And then, like the slow creep of dawn across a blackened sky, he felt warmth touch his little finger. A presence that drifted, then stayed; a finger pressed against his own. Nothing more than that, but it was enough.

Bodie gave himself up to sleep.

He woke to the demands of his bladder. Groggy, cursing because he couldn't have slept long, he opened his eyes. The room was still in shadow, although the patterns had shifted, light where it had been dark before. Doyle's room, and Doyle beside him--he could hear the even breathing of deep sleep. As soundlessly as possible, Bodie left the bed and made his way to the loo.

Returning, he paused a moment at the door, thinking of flight, of his own home, of keeping the little he'd been given before it was taken away. He'd had such good intentions once, but they'd been blown to bits by the drill expertly wielded by Doyle. Gone the way of Doyle's faith. They were both floundering. He walked forward and climbed into the bed once again, climbed into warmth and familiarity and risk.

Bodie lay on his back, trying to recapture sleep, but his head was clearer than it had been, and he couldn't forget the man asleep next to him. He rolled onto his side, closer to Doyle, just to look at him. Doyle was on his back, head turned away from Bodie, the duvet pushed down to his stomach. Bodie let his eyes roam, let his senses absorb the sight and the smell and the sound of him. Glad, at least, that Doyle wouldn't know quite how much of a fool he was.

He stayed like that for a long time and gradually it began to feel unreal, a step out of time, Doyle as insubstantial as the shadows playing across the room. So Bodie reached out and placed his hand on Doyle's chest. Whether Doyle woke at his touch he didn't know, didn't care. Doyle didn't move and Bodie was consumed in touching Doyle's scars for the first time. They'd fade in time, he knew, but they were prominent now, still dark and vicious and hard. The closest fate had ever come to severing the tie between him and Doyle, beaten away for good or ill. He traced the lines, memorising them in his fingertips, thinking of the savage violation they represented. And then his fingers travelled up to Doyle's throat, and he touched the scar there, his own mark on Doyle. Breath left him as his throat tightened.

But Doyle was there, suddenly, awake and aware, moving beneath his hand. Bodie felt hands on his arm and shoulder, felt the pull as he was drawn down to Doyle, felt the touch of lips on his.

There was nothing tentative in the kiss, no holding back, and it cut through his defences, right to the bone. Soft, sweet, giving, and he gave way before it, greedily accepted it, and gave everything in return. Doyle's tongue explored him, teased him, enticed him to follow and to take and to accept, turn and turn about. Bodie left one hand on Doyle's shoulder, finger still pressed against the scar, while his other hand moved down to claim Doyle's skin, to find him roused already, all the heat and hardness of him offered into his care. And Doyle's hands swept over Bodie's skin, rubbing and stroking, urging him on, not frantic but sure.

They climbed steadily, together, but when Bodie pulled back, intending to move down to give Doyle his mouth, he met resistance. Rebelliously he pushed back, wanting to taste Doyle's cock, to give him better than he had that morning. But Doyle's grip was firm and he showed Bodie what he wanted, pulling and fitting them together, starting a rhythm that Bodie could match. And it was easy then, a slow build, moisture and sweat helping them, and all he had to do was to hold on to Doyle, let Doyle hold on to him. Bodie pressed his face against Doyle's neck, his tongue and mouth on Doyle's skin as they rocked together.

Doyle groaned when he came, a long, lush sound, his fingers pressing against Bodie's back, his body hot and trembling. Bodie thrust again, and again, and felt the pleasure peak for him as well, the release long and slow rather than explosive, leaving his nerves sparking long after he was drained. He lay there, clinging to Doyle, never wanting to move, never wanting to lose the moment, and when he felt moisture in his eyes he buried his head against Doyle.

But moments are always fleeting, like the bubbles children blow, floating in a second's perfection, then gone forever. Doyle turned towards him, pressing against him. Bodie raised his head and felt Doyle's lips on his forehead and Doyle's finger stroking his cheek. Then Doyle settled them down again, and all was quiet. Bodie drifted into sleep, with the warmth of Doyle all around him.

He woke, cold and alone, in the dark bedroom. For a while Bodie lay on his side, craving the dream that had kept him from this reality, but the coldness crept into him, waking him, stealing away comfort. The bed was empty but for him. No surprise. The room was empty as well, he didn't need a light to tell him that. He could hear nothing from outside the room. Doyle could be reading, could be listening to music, could be anywhere. Could be gone.

Bodie climbed out of the bed. He needed a bath and a shave. More sleep wouldn't go amiss, either. And food. He dressed quickly, trying not to listen for sounds, unable to stop. Carrying his jacket and his holster, he walked out into the hallway, and then to the lounge. He went from there to the loo, and then to the kitchen, and back again to the lounge and to the Christmas tree that twinkled at him with merry malice. No Doyle. Gone, in retreat, even from his home. The hurt was too deep for anger to protect, and he felt a vast weariness that sleep couldn't cure. You couldn't change the past, couldn't capture again the fleeting moment. He couldn't go back to the beginning and start anew, couldn't give Doyle what he needed as if Bodie had never abused it, had never taken advantage of it, had never rejected it.

Perhaps Doyle's retreat was more in the manner of a kindness.

Bodie buckled his holster on, put his jacket on over it, and then he went to the tree and he pulled the plug on the fairy lights. They winked out, darkening the tree, stealing the magic from it. But the tree was still there, would always be there, every year. Faith, of a sort.

Bodie left the lounge, walked the hallway to the door and let himself out of the flat, locking up as he left. He didn't meet anyone on his way to the street, emerging into the darkness of early evening. It had rained again, the pavement wet, the air chilly and damp. Sprinkles came with the wind and he ducked his head as he made his way to the Capri, hands thrust into his jacket pockets. It was Sunday, the close of Boxing Day, not many people around on the streets.

He fumbled for his keys and unlocked the car, sliding in to the seat and slamming the door closed. Refuge. He put the key in the ignition but he didn't start the car. Instead, he stayed there for a moment, head against the steering wheel. Just to get his breath back, to ease the constriction a little, that's all he needed. A moment.

And then he jumped, banging his head sharply, as a thump sounded on the car roof. His heart beat faster than it should have, nerves shot to hell. He stared furiously out the side window and saw Doyle glaring back at him. Ah, fuck. Gaining some semblance of control, he rolled down the window. The sprinkles had turned to a fine rain.

"Where the hell are you going?"

"Home," Bodie said, tightly.


"Why not?" He looked Doyle up and down. "Something on offer, then?"

"Didn't you get my note?"

"What note?"

"The note in the kitchen. I thought you'd be hungry, was sure you wouldn't miss it. You missed it, didn't you? 'Strewth. C'mon, get out of the car."

Busy thinking, unnerved by Doyle's breeziness, he followed orders and climbed out of the car. He'd only looked in the kitchen long enough to see Doyle wasn't there. He hadn't seen a note. At the back of his mind, he caught a fleeting image of white--on the floor, by the refrigerator. Bugger. The rain fell harder.

"Where were you, then?" he asked Doyle, standing by the car despite Doyle's urging.

"Cowley. He rang while you were sleeping. Come on up, I'll make dinner. I hope steaks will do you, I haven't got the ingredients for Christmas dinner."

But Bodie stayed riveted to the pavement, uncertainty shaking him. "I want to go home."

Doyle turned back to him, peering at him through the soaking rain.

"I mean it. I'm...tired." Away, he only wanted to get away. He needed time to seal off the wounds before he came under Doyle's scrutiny again

"You've slept all afternoon." But Doyle's voice was abstracted, his gaze unfocused. And then his eyes snapped to Bodie's face. He spoke abruptly: "I nearly told Cowley today."

Bodie blinked. "Told Cowley what?"

"About us."

Cold drenched Bodie more thoroughly than the rain. "You what?"

Doyle shrugged.

Bodie clenched his fist, then jammed both hands into his pockets. "What stopped you?"

"I thought we should do it together."

"Oh, did you?"

"Yeah." Doyle's eyes flickered over him, at odds with the nonchalance in his voice.

"Yeah, well, maybe if there was something to tell him, we would. Christ, Doyle!"

And then Doyle was right there, in his face, fierce with anger. "We both know you want there to be something, don't we? We both know it."

As easily as that, stripped bare. But Doyle wasn't through.

"So what are you going to do, Bodie, when I say yes?"

Bodie laughed. Short, gasping laughter that hurt. "No danger of that."

"Sure of that, are you?"

The laughter died. "Yeah."

"Like you said, I'd beg for it. Crawl for it."

"Leave it out, Doyle." Inside his pocket, his fist opened, rattling the car keys. He closed his hand around them tightly.

Doyle stepped closer. "But you're the one who keeps coming round. Why do you keep coming back, Bodie?"

"Right." Bodie shouldered Doyle aside. "Go and play your fucking games elsewhere, Doyle." He reached for the car door, opening it. But he couldn't help but look at Doyle once more, his stillness drawing Bodie's attention like movement on patrol. Doyle wasn't looking at him, wasn't trying to stop him, was just standing there in the rain, head bowed. Doyle shivered.

With a curse, Bodie slammed the car door shut. He returned to Doyle, grabbed his arm, and jerked him to follow before releasing it. "Come on. They'd better be good steaks." And he walked with Doyle down the street, up the steps to the building, then up more stairs to Doyle's flat. Doyle closed the door behind them and Bodie set the locks.

They looked at each other.

"You look like a drowned rat," Bodie said, roughly.

Doyle didn't say anything. Just rubbed a hand across his face, wiping the water away.

More gently this time, Bodie tugged at Doyle's arm. "C'mere." He led Doyle to the lounge, left him standing by the door while he moved forward to the tree and plugged in the fairy lights once again. The tree sprang to life in front of them, dazzling them. Bodie gazed at it a moment, then turned back to Doyle, and the words that came to him were the same Doyle had spoken last year, when he'd awakened in hospital. "So let's have Christmas, then."

A moment longer, Doyle was still, and then he nodded. He brushed another drop of water from his face. "I'm going to have a bath. The potatoes need peeling."

"All right. Leave some hot water for me!" he called after Doyle's retreating back. Bodie went to the kitchen. Catching sight of Doyle's note on the floor he picked it up and read it.

Duty calls, shouldn't be long. Don't spoil your dinner. Steaks in the fridge.

Bodie chucked the note into the bin, then went searching for the potatoes to wash and peel. It gave him something to concentrate on. He put the potatoes on to boil when he was finished and went to see if Doyle had heard him about the water.

Doyle met him in the hallway, dressed again, his hair damp. "It's all yours. I'll put the steaks on."

Bodie entered the bathroom, still steamy from Doyle's bath. Doyle had put a robe out for him and clean towels. Bodie eyed them consideringly as he filled the bath, then climbed in. The water was hot, shocking and warming his chilled skin all at the same time. He sank into it, careful of his bandaged arm, delighting in the heat of the water and the loosening in his muscles. He stayed until the water began to cool, then he climbed out, pulled the plug, and reached for the towel. Wandering over to the basin, he found Doyle's backup razor and the gel to go with it. After brushing his teeth, using Doyle's toothbrush, he pulled the robe around him and tied the belt. He carried his clothes to Doyle's bedroom. The bed had been made and the bedside lamp cast a soft glow over the room. He set his clothes down on a chair in the corner.

Returning to the kitchen, he found it empty and so he went on through to the lounge. Doyle was in a chair by the tree, sipping wine. He pointed to the wine-glass on the table in front of the sofa. Bodie settled on the sofa, picking up his glass and tasting the wine.

"This is good."

"Jacob's Creek. Shiraz Cabernet. We'll have it with dinner."

"Anything more to do for that?"

"I'll go and cook some vegetables in a few minutes."

Bodie looked at the wine in his glass. "What did Cowley want you for?"

"Just to tie up the loose ends. I still had some of Hughes' stuff. He and Sir Peter have hit it off."

Bodie grinned. It felt like it'd been a long time. "What, he liked the real version better? Tut, tut, Doyle."

"Oh yes, very amusing." Doyle rolled his eyes at him.

"The secretary wasn't too fond of you either, Goldilocks."

"Oh, you heard some of that, did you? He should know better than to grab hold of a man's hand like that."

"Yeah, I caught some of the interrogation. He did it for money, you know." Bodie leered.

"With his looks, I'm not surprised. Must cost a bomb to get laid." Doyle sipped more of his wine, his face pensive. "I didn't expect Ahmed to be the problem."

"No." Bodie turned the glass in his hand, then finished off the wine. "But we knew what he'd give for the cause he believed in."


"Dedicated. He thought Hanish had sold out."

Doyle set his glass down and got to his feet. "So his answer was to grab Hanish, sell him to his enemies, and make a martyr out of him. Charming."

Bodie shrugged. "It made sense to him. That's all that matters, isn't it?"

"Not to the people caught in the fallout. C'mon, you can chop vegetables for me." He headed for the kitchen.

"Whatever happened to, 'Sit down and have a drink, mate, while I finish with dinner'?" Bodie followed him into the kitchen.

"Don't mind if I do. Here." Doyle handed Bodie the mushrooms and tomatoes. "Be gentle with them." He grinned and left the kitchen.

"Doyle!" But he set to with a will and Doyle returned with the wine-glasses. Doyle checked the steaks, then got the frying pan out for the potatoes. The vegetables went under the grill while the potatoes were fried, and Bodie set the table. In short order, everything was ready and, both of them starving, they consumed the dinner quickly, conversation limited to requests for salt and pepper and more of everything. Afterwards, they finished their wine in companionable silence, until Bodie let curiosity free his tongue.

"Cowley's dedicated. To a cause."

Doyle's look was unfathomable. "Yes, I know."

Bodie studied his wine. "Do you still expect it to mean something? If Cowley throws us to the wolves?"

"Yeah. To him. Not necessarily to us."

"And you can live with that?"

Doyle shrugged. "It comes down to choices, doesn't it? Choose something to believe in--it might as well be Cowley." Doyle stood up and began to clear the dishes, his mouth hard.

"Do you trust him?" Bodie watched as Doyle paused, plate in hand, and they exchanged a look.

"Do you?"

Bodie thought of Doyle on his own, sent on ops by Cowley. "Not always."

Doyle nodded, still gazing at him. "No." He swung around to the sink.

They cleared the rest of the table together, then Doyle washed while Bodie dried the dishes, and he took charge of the conversation, steering them away from work and onto football and Monty Python. Placing the last dish away, Bodie turned to find Doyle finishing the last half-glass of wine.

"Oi!" And he threw his towel at Doyle, expecting him to intercept it, mildly surprised when he didn't. He shook his head. "Slowing down, old son."

Doyle picked up the towel. "I am," he said, unsmiling. He placed the wine-glass in the sink.

"After today, it's no surprise, mate." Bodie didn't like the look on Doyle's face.

Doyle turned his head to look at him. "I am."

"Not to notice."

"You've noticed."

Shrugging, Bodie held his gaze. "So we've compensated. You've compensated. You're better than you were, Doyle." Two operations in a year, not even Doyle could beat those odds entirely.

"It scares me." Doyle's voice was hushed, and he stared at the wall above the sink. "It might be fractions now but what happens when it becomes seconds?"

"Then we get out."

Doyle turned his head. "We?"

"It's getting harder for me to just leap out of bed in the morning, too, you know." Doyle remained motionless, looking at him. Bodie sighed. "I'm too old to build this kind of trust with a new partner. It's like you said before--when we go, we go together. Whether that's inside CI5 or not." Needing to move, Bodie swung round towards the door and walked out of the kitchen to the lounge.

He found himself before the Christmas tree, drawn to the light and the warmth of it. To the memory of it. He heard Doyle come up behind him, heard him breathing in the pause that followed.

"I missed you on the Hanish op."

"That's why you were so warmly welcoming?" Bodie turned round to face Doyle.

Doyle gave him a crooked smile. "Yeah. I reckon."

"Marvellous." He looked down for a moment, then again at Doyle. "Why'd you want to tell Cowley about us?"

Doyle's smile vanished and he shrugged. "It was just a daft impulse. Lack of sleep."

Bodie shook his head. "That doesn't explain it. That doesn't begin to explain it." He said it slowly, realisation growing in him. Doyle had called him, had kissed him. "What's changed, Ray?" He wanted to move forward, to touch Doyle, but he stayed put, his hands clenched at his side. "You asked me what I wanted from you earlier. You know what I want--you said that, too."

Doyle was frowning. "This morning--" He broke off, his hand sketching a helpless gesture.

"And this afternoon." And that, Bodie realised, was the truth of it. The two ends of the spectrum they shared, each a part of them, each necessary perhaps. Doyle had come back to him today after both. "What is it you want?"

Doyle looked at him and it took all of Bodie's will to stay still. If he touched Doyle it would be his decision, not Doyle's. They both knew that.

"I want you." Doyle's voice was low, but he held Bodie's gaze for a clear moment before he looked away, lashes covering his eyes.

"You've always had me. Like a bloody boomerang. I keep coming round to you."

Doyle's eyes rose swiftly to his. "Why?" It was a cry, with anger beneath it. "Because I was the one that left you? Dented your--"

"Because you need me." And it shut Doyle up before he'd even got started. "I nearly killed you, Ray, because I wasn't there when you needed me. It's not going to happen again."

"Don't you think I know that?" Doyle asked, roughly. "Bloody hell, Bodie! I never blamed you for--"

"And the second time, it was you pushing me away." Bodie said it steadily, the thought never before spoken aloud.

Doyle stared at him, eyes wide, chest moving in quick breaths. And then he moved forward and he kissed Bodie, fiercely, all the live strength of him focused on Bodie.

They broke apart eventually, Bodie's hands on Doyle's shoulders, vice-like. Bodie cleared his throat. "It had damn well better not be pity, Doyle."

Doyle smiled at him. "Don't be a bloody idiot."

Bodie shook him slightly. "We'll try it for a while. A few months. A year."

"Yeah, all right." Doyle nodded, then slipped from Bodie's hands. "Let's go to bed. Turn off the lights, will you?"

"Doyle." He didn't know what to do with this easy acceptance, all his doubts clamouring. He grabbed Doyle's hand, stopping him from leaving the room.

Doyle's fingers gripped his own. "It's all right. It'll be all right. It's only a year." He tugged at Bodie, but Bodie resisted.

"There's no 'only' about it."

Doyle studied him, eyes intent. "Maybe so. C'mon." And they went together to turn out the fairy lights, and then the other lights, and then into Doyle's bedroom.

Bodie slipped out of the robe and into Doyle's bed while Doyle undressed. This time, when Doyle joined him, there was no empty space between them. He gathered Doyle to him and kissed him, images of all the times before flickering through his mind.

Doyle licked his collar bone, then pushed Bodie onto his back, kissing him deeply. When he stopped, he looked down at Bodie gravely. "Can never get enough of you." His voice was ragged. "Never could. Realised that first when you turned to Marikka--had to get you back. And then I saw where that was leading, saw what happened to Burke when he didn't feel a tenth of what I felt. Couldn't have. I decided you were right."

"I was wrong." Bodie brushed a finger along Doyle's cheek and Doyle closed his eyes.

"It was all right then, for a while, except...." Doyle's voice trailed off and he opened his eyes.

"Except we were playing bloody dangerous games."

Doyle sighed. "We still are."

Bodie ran his hand through Doyle's hair, coming to rest along his neck. "No. Not any more."

He saw the fear in Doyle's eyes, the same fear he had seen for years, but Doyle just leaned down and kissed him. Bodie took control then, and he made love to Doyle as he'd wanted to last Christmas, passion tempered by hard-won understanding. And afterwards he held Doyle as he slept, another vigil for another year.

27 December 1983

Doyle was late. Bodie's window afforded a clear view of the car park below but he resisted the urge to station himself beside it. Instead, he sat in the armchair next to the bed, book in hand, as if he hadn't been waiting for an hour already. His bag was packed and waiting by the door, his cane propped beside it.

Five weeks in the Knowle Place convalescent centre and he was more than ready to go home, to get on with his life--now that he knew he hadn't a choice, that all choices had been taken away from him. Doyle would be here, despite the justifiable anger he'd felt on Christmas Day because of Bodie.

But for how long would he stay?

The insidious voice kept coming back with that question. That, and the memory of Doyle's voice: Realised that first when you turned to Marikka--had to get you back.

Doyle always was one to be attracted to the impossible, the hard-to-get, the person walking away. How would that play, then, when everything had changed? When the job was no longer the linchpin between them, the one sure part of their partnership?

Bodie shifted in the chair, trying to ease the ache in his leg. Christmas Day hadn't gone well. Doyle had arrived at noon to celebrate Bodie's upcoming release and to share Christmas with him. He'd left at four, face grim, anger barely held in check. They knew each other's weaknesses too well, and Bodie had wanted company for his misery. He'd succeeded there.

After Doyle had gone, Bodie had been drawn to the window, his triumph at goading Doyle into leaving short-lived, and he'd watched his partner stalk to his car. Doyle, when he'd reached the car, had sent a gesture towards Bodie's window that was as eloquent as it was obscene. Trust Doyle--and in full view of anyone who happened to be looking at the car park. Bodie had gone to bed that night in a better frame of mind.

To awaken on Boxing Day having finally accepted that he would never be on the Squad again. He'd already resigned--did that on Christmas Eve, over the phone to Cowley--but he hadn't fully accepted what the doctors and therapists had told him. He'd held out hope, just as he had all the weeks in hospital and at Knowle. Hope the doctors had given him while his leg was still in plaster, hope that ignored the meaning of "ten percent chance". Hope that had wrapped itself in Doyle, that he had given to Doyle, that he had held as his shield against Doyle's reaction if Bodie were to be invalided out. All crushed to dust under the pressing reality of a shortened leg and a pin holding it together. He'd walk again, might even run again, but never at the standard he'd need to be in CI5.

Footsteps sounded in the corridor outside his room, and Bodie looked up as the door opened and Doyle walked into the room. He responded to the warmth in Doyle's smile without thinking about it. He took in the details of a vibrant Doyle dressed in a sweater jacket, a shirt with a dark T-shirt underneath, jeans and trainers. Doyle's hair was growing long again, the grey more prominent than ever. When, however, he finally met Doyle's eyes, he found wariness.

Well, no surprise.

"Ready, are you?" Doyle asked, surveying Bodie in his turn.

"Always." Bodie stood and slipped the book into his pocket. He moved carefully towards his cane, while Doyle leaned against the door with such studied nonchalance that Bodie found himself suppressing a smile.

"Are you going to carry the bag?" Doyle was all polite inquiry.

Bodie leaned his weight on the cane. "How far would you let me try it?"

"Not very."

"Help yourself, mate." Bodie gestured towards the bag.

"In a minute." Doyle gave him an enigmatic look, then he pushed away from the door, moved a step forward, and kissed Bodie. Warmth and trust and familiarity. Bodie allowed himself to enjoy it for a moment, before he broke the kiss, nodding meaningfully towards the hallway and the people in it. Doyle rolled his eyes, but he picked up Bodie's bag and headed towards the door.

They managed to leave Knowle Place with a minimum amount of fuss and attention. In the car park, Doyle steered Bodie towards a silver Golf. Bodie settled into the passenger seat with a quiet sigh of relief. He had had enough of bloody hospitals for a lifetime.

"Where's the Capri, then?" Bodie relaxed as Doyle drove out of the car park and headed for the M4.

"In for repairs. How are you feeling?"

"They released me. What repairs?"

"Routine. What did they tell you?"

"To continue with the physio."

"I see." Doyle negotiated a roundabout.

"I'm fine."

"So you said the other day."

"I am."

Doyle glanced at him, expression hardening. "I believe you."

Bodie looked out the side window. They travelled another mile before merging onto the motorway.

"I'll be glad to have you back." Doyle's voice was softer. "Missed you."

Bodie's stomach muscles tightened. "Did you?"

"Yes, you sceptical bastard, I did. What the fuck's wrong with you?"


"Christ. Happy Christmas to you, too, mate."

"Just leave it, Doyle. I'm tired." Bodie leaned back in his seat, eyes closed.

Doyle muttered to himself.

After that, they travelled in silence through the grey day and the traffic. Bodie dozed for a bit, then turned his head and gazed out the window at the winter landscape, brown and wet. The sun, in its short journey, was hidden behind a solid wall of clouds, with not even a glimmer to brighten the day. The year had been better than that, deserved to be rung out with more cheer than that. Just his luck.

Triumphs and tragedies this year: Avery and Rahad, Quinn and Cookie. They'd taken Ulrike in a hollow victory. He'd watched Doyle die a little, after he'd spoken with June, and he'd cursed Cowley for it. He'd watched Doyle shrug it off, hardening himself, adding yet another layer of skin that would prove all too fragile.

Cowley had been delegating more to them, allowing them more control over their ops, more responsibility. He'd kept Doyle busy managing ops while Bodie had recovered from the bullet that would end his career and their partnership.

At least Doyle had had nothing to do with his injury. Doyle had been reporting to Cowley, at the scene of the bust, while Bodie had swept the house, along with Lucas and McCabe. It had been bad luck only that had led Bodie out of the house just as Hitchings, in desperation, had found a gun. Bodie had been the only casualty. The first and last bullet he'd taken in CI5. He'd remember Doyle's face at the scene for the rest of his life.

Doyle. That's where the year had been centred. They'd both been wary at first, cautious, moving gingerly as they'd adjusted their partnership, adjusted to each other.

Into his mind came his own voice, in a conversation with Susan Grant. She had instinctively understood his nature, just as he had understood hers:

That explains quite a lot.


Well, you being a loner.

Like you?


But he'd thought of Doyle, and had known he wasn't a loner any longer.

It hadn't been true of him for years. It hadn't been true when he'd discovered he could feel blind hope while waiting for Doyle in Mallory's cellar. It hadn't been true when he'd sought Doyle out in the middle of the night during their Christmas holiday up north. Certainly not true when he'd held vigil over a sleeping Doyle in hospital.

I do learn, Doyle.

And Doyle's voice, offering redemption: So let's have Christmas, then.

He'd forgotten he'd set a limit of a year on them, until fate had intervened.

Bodie focused on their surroundings to find they'd exited the M4 at Brentford. "Where are we going?"

"Awake again, are you? We're going to my flat."

"Accommodations moved you again?"

Doyle was silent, his attention on manoeuvring around a lorry.

"What about me?"

"You're staying with me, at least at first." Doyle stared at him, narrow-eyed. "Not a problem, is it?"

"No." Bodie looked down. It had been a year. A year begun in fear now ending in uncertainty. But he'd never been alone in that year, and he'd seen the change in Doyle. The soldier's role had never been more difficult. "Ray...." He hesitated, at a loss.


"I'm going to be invalided out."

When Doyle made no sound, Bodie looked up to find him concentrating on traffic, mouth hard.

"Did you hear me?"

"Yeah. You just saved yourself from being chucked out in the rain."

"You what?"

"We're going to have a talk when we get home, Butch. You won't like it."

"You've been talking with Cowley." Damned interfering Cowley.

"You didn't give me much choice, did you?"

Bodie opened his mouth to respond, but Doyle interrupted. "Save it till we get home." Bodie, observing Doyle's white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, subsided.

So Doyle knew. Unsettled, the ground shifting beneath his feet, Bodie looked out the window again, setting up contingency plans.

Ten minutes later, Doyle pulled into a parking spot behind a green Citroen. The street was quiet, residential, with trees overhanging a wall at the far end, where the street made a right turn to follow the wall. Doyle took Bodie's bag and led him along the street towards the wall, veering to the left to follow the wall along a footpath, and then up a few steps into a building.

The flat was on the ground level, with a small private garden, two bedrooms, a kitchen large enough to dine in, a bath with a shower, and a living room overlooking the garden. Doyle showed him around briefly while he stored Bodie's bag in one of the bedrooms. They returned to the living room. There was a tree in the corner, brightly decorated, but dark until Doyle moved forward and plugged in the fairy lights.

Bodie made his way slowly towards the sofa. "I see you still have this year's homage to Priapus."

"Bad luck to take it down too early."

Bodie watched needles cascade onto the floor as Doyle brushed against the tree. "There won't be a tree left by Twelfth-Night, mate."

Doyle shrugged, not saying anything, his arms folded.

"It's nice," Bodie said, awkward with the silence. "A nice flat."

"Yeah. Can you drink?"

"A little." Bodie eased himself down onto the sofa. Doyle's furniture had already been moved in; he wondered where his own was. "Not the usual for a CI5 flat."

"No. Accommodations is off-loading it next year." Doyle took off his jacket, dropping it into a chair. "It didn't work out. Well, this neighbourhood, you can see why."

Bodie frowned at Doyle, preoccupied. "You're not carrying." There was no shoulder-holster strapped to Doyle.

Doyle's back was to him as he prepared their drinks. "Was just picking you up, wasn't I?"

No shoulder holster, no Capri, new flat. Bodie stared at him, shock drenching him. "Christ, Doyle, what have you done?"

Doyle swung around too quickly, whisky spilling from the glass he held. His expression smoothed over into remoteness. "Nothing you haven't already done."

Bodie stood up, ignoring the pain lancing through his leg at the sudden movement. "You've resigned. You bastard. You fucking bastard, you've resigned!"

"Yes." Doyle set the glass down.

"Well, thanks for the sacrifice, Doyle, but I can do without it all the same."

"Can you?"

"Can't imagine why not." Bodie steadied himself with the cane. "And I'm not about to have you throwing it in my face that you gave it all up for me."

"Assume a lot, don't you?" Doyle looked down at the carpet for a moment, then brought his eyes back to Bodie. "Well. I should've assumed you were lying."

"About what?" Bodie's leg was aching.

"'Then we get out'. Very eloquent you were."

Bodie stared at him.

"Only works one way, does it?" Doyle gave him a hard look, then turned back to the drinks cabinet and picked up the glass again.

"That's different." Bodie shifted his weight, leaning more heavily on the cane.

Doyle didn't turn around. "Yeah, I'll bet it is." He took a swallow of the whisky, then turned and walked to the garden window. He gestured at the remaining glass. "Help yourself, mate. It's what you do best."

Bodie didn't move. "Look, it is different. It's--"

"Yeah, it is. It's you invalided out and me who's left to make a choice."

"I didn't get a fucking choice to make!"

"No. You didn't. Well, I'm sorry I couldn't oblige you by failing the assessments or getting shot again. Sorry to ruin your dramatic exit on my behalf." Doyle raised his glass in a toast.

"Bugger this." Bodie moved carefully towards the drink waiting for him.

"Cheer up, sunshine. Chances are pretty good I'd've failed the next assessment, anyway. You only beat me by a couple of months. Always have to be first, don't you?"

Bodie picked up the glass, then put it down again. "Ray, can we talk about this sensibly?"

"Apparently not." Doyle set his glass down on the table near the sofa, and paced back to the window.

Bodie gave in to the demands of his leg and sat down in an armchair. "Look, there's no sense in both of us quitting, at least not right now. Give it some time first, see how it goes."

"And what'll you do?" Doyle kept his back to him, gazing out the window.

"I don't know yet."

"Cowley would put you to work, if you let him."

Bodie's stomach twisted but he kept his voice even. "Yes. I can look into that."

Doyle turned around, crossing his arms again and leaning against the window frame. "Right. Meanwhile, I'll stay on the Squad, is that it?"

"As long as you can, mate, for both of us." Bodie made his voice cheery.

"Build trust with a new partner."

Bodie nodded. "Yeah."

"Get to know him, learn his ways. Show him my Christmas tree, shall I? We all know what that leads to."

Bodie looked at him. "I'm serious, Doyle."

"Yeah?" Doyle pushed away from the window, and picked up his glass. He walked towards Bodie, leaning down close to him. "Nice to know you weren't serious a year ago." Straightening, he strode to the drinks cabinet.

"Ah, fuck this." Bodie glared at Doyle's profile, and saw the tension in his hands as he poured more whisky for himself, spilling some. His eyes narrowed as another possibility occurred to him. "I remember what you said, too. You were afraid of being like Burke. Is that why you want off the Squad?"

Doyle slammed the bottle down and turned on Bodie, eyes as cold as his voice. "Yeah, that's it, you're on to me. I'm going to kill myself on an op over you. Be a kindness, really, letting me resign."

Bodie sighed. "Ray, all I'm asking is that you give it some time. To think about it."

"What the fuck do you think I've been doing?" The phone rang, interrupting whatever Doyle had been about to say. He glared at Bodie, then stalked to the phone. "What?" He listened, frowning. "Now? But--" He sighed. "Yeah, all right."

Doyle hung up the phone. He turned towards Bodie, his face weary, older than it had been.

"I have to go to HQ." Doyle moved forward, searching for his keys in his jacket pocket.

"Something up?"

"Nah, just paperwork. They're insisting." Doyle looked around. "I've got food in, everything you need. You'll be all right here?" Doyle headed for the door, then paused. "Will you be here when I get back?" He didn't look at Bodie.

A familiar depression was returning, making him feel tired. "Where would I go?"

"You've got a flat. It's still yours." Doyle drew in a breath, then glanced at Bodie. "I can drop you there on my way." All the animation had fled from Doyle's voice.

Bodie looked at him a short time. He shrugged. "I'll stay here."

Doyle nodded, reached for the doorknob, and let his hand drop. For a moment, he stood there, then he pivoted and walked back to Bodie. He kissed Bodie, hard and fast, then spoke in a low, intense voice: "Since you've brought up Burke...if you're thinking of playing the role of Farley in this farce, think again. I meant what I said all those years ago."

Bodie's eyes kindled, even as his heart sped up. "Pity, is it?"

Doyle's expression didn't change. "Oh no, sunshine, it's far more dangerous than that." He flicked Bodie's cheek with his finger, turned, and walked out of the flat. Bodie heard Doyle set the locks, and then there was silence.

Bodie sat for a long time after Doyle had gone, just letting the silence cover him, blanking his mind, trying to gain solid ground. The flat was cold, unfamiliar territory, like his future.

His perspective had altered, there was no denying that. What had seemed simple enough to him a year ago was different now. Their lives were intertwined with the job, their reasons for staying an inextricable mix of loyalty and partnership; Doyle's idealism and Bodie's pragmatism. Set free from that, uprooted, one through force and the other through sacrifice...how long would it be before the rot set in? And that could destroy everything.

After a while, Bodie found his way to the kitchen and he made himself a cheese and pickle sandwich, then found the Hobnobs Doyle had hidden behind the muesli. When he finished, he washed the dishes and left them to dry while he used the loo and then explored the flat. One bedroom was empty, the other contained Doyle's bed, wardrobe, and other furniture, along with Bodie's bag. On the wall of the bedroom was the copy of "Desiderata" that he had given Doyle years ago. Bodie returned to the quiet living room.

He had just settled on the sofa when the door buzzer sounded. Sighing, Bodie hauled himself up and found the intercom. "Yes?"

"May I speak with you, Bodie?" Cowley's voice answered him back.

Bodie raised his eyebrows. "Certainly, sir. Push." He pressed the button to let Cowley into the building, then unlocked the door to the flat.

"It's good to see you, lad." Cowley walked into the flat, the shoulders of his overcoat attesting to the renewed rain.


Bodie stood still as Cowley ventured into the living room, unbuttoning his coat as he went. Cowley glanced at him. "Och, don't just stand there, man. I want to talk to you and it could take some time. I wouldn't say no to a drink."

A smile played around Bodie's lips. "Of course, sir." He moved to the drinks cabinet and poured the scotch into a glass while Cowley took off his coat, laying it on the sofa. Bodie handed Cowley his drink, then settled into the armchair again.

"How are you?" Cowley sat on the sofa, looking across at Bodie.

"I assume you've read the reports."

Cowley sighed. "Of course. I'm asking you, however."

"I'm fine."

"Good. Have you come to your senses yet?"

"Is that what this is about?"

Cowley leaned back against the sofa. "You can't expect me to give you up without a fight."

Bodie grinned. "No, I suppose not." The grin faded, but he kept his eyes on Cowley. "I won't make the Squad again."

"No, you won't."

There was no hope in that simple statement. "Ah, well, it was getting boring, anyway. Same old thing. About time to move on, isn't it?"

"You don't have to. You know there's a place for you in CI5."

Bodie shrugged. "Doing what?"

"Operations. Your experience would be invaluable."

Bodie grimaced. "Managing an op from behind a desk? Could you do it, sir?"

"I have."

At that, Bodie laughed. "No, you haven't. A bum leg never stopped you."

"Then why are you letting it stop you?"

Bodie looked away for a moment. "I'm not you. It wouldn't suit me." He forced another smile.

Cowley sipped his drink. "There are other options. Training, for one. I believe you'd enjoy that. Putting others through what you yourself have endured."

For courtesy, Bodie gave it some thought. "Maybe." There was some appeal to it, but it didn't relieve any of the ache inside him.

"I need you, lad."

He met Cowley's eyes. "You needed me as I was."

"You underestimate your value." Cowley took another sip. "The transition you're contemplating is not an easy one. You've known nothing but service life since you were young. A transition period, even if it means a desk, or training, might make it easier."

"I've always followed the motto that a clean break is best."

"I see." Cowley contemplated his drink. "And would you say that's Doyle's motto as well?"

Bodie's stomach clenched. "Sir?"

"You are aware that Doyle has resigned?"

"Yes, sir."

"Because of you." Cowley's eyes lifted to his.

Bodie kept his face impassive, waiting.

"Do you agree with his reasoning?" Cowley drank more of the scotch.

"He says he'll fail his next assessment."

"He's wrong."

Bodie shifted in his chair, hand grasping his cane, then setting it aside. "What is it you want?"

Cowley raised his eyebrows, leaning forward. "It's very simple. I want you and Doyle in CI5."

"Doyle active and me at a desk."

"Yes." Cowley's tone was calm, reasonable.

"I wouldn't last a week, sir."

"You would if you had sufficient reason to."

"And what do you think is sufficient reason?"

Cowley studied him. "You pride yourself on being the perfect soldier, but neither the army nor the SAS suited you. You've lasted eight years in CI5, and would have stayed the course had you not been injured."

"That's down to you, sir. You're the best commander I've had."

"And yet, you've disobeyed my orders."

Bodie's fingers dug into his thigh. He forced them to relax. "I've done the job."

"Aye. I've few complaints. And I'm asking you to go on doing it, to serve in a new but necessary way. Don't throw away all you've built, lad."

"All you've built."

Cowley looked down for a moment, then back at Bodie. "Then I'll appeal to a deeper loyalty. You'll be taking Doyle with you, if you leave."

He held himself very still. "That's Doyle's choice to make."

"He's already made it. And how long do you think Doyle will last if he resigns when he can still perform his job? A job that has brought him grief, yes, but also satisfaction and the knowledge that his actions have made a difference."

"You ought to be having this conversation with him."

"His loyalty is as misguided as yours."

"Thank you, sir." Bodie gave him a brief, twisted smile. "You want me to convince Doyle to stay in CI5."

"I want you both to stay in CI5."

"Who would you partner him with?"

"He's worked well with Stuart in the past."

Bodie shook his head. "Stuart is too competitive--even more than Doyle and I were in the beginning. You've kept him solo for a reason."

Cowley smiled faintly, set his glass down, and leaned back against the sofa. "Murphy?"

"Our Murphy is a good lad. But Doyle would chew him up. It'd be a waste."

"As it happens, I have need of Doyle's particular skills in an undercover operation I've been planning. It would be long term and he'd be working solo."


Cowley raised his eyebrows.

"It wouldn't suit him." Burke had volunteered for just such a mission.

"Do you doubt Doyle's abilities?"

"In those circumstances. Remember the Hanish op?"

"Then I take it you agree with Doyle's reasons for leaving. Well, you will have your pension. Doyle will find a job of some type, I've no doubt."

"It's his decision."

"Made in haste."

"And repented at leisure, is that what you're trying to say, sir?"

Cowley stood up, reaching for his glass. "May I?" He gestured towards the whisky bottle. Bodie nodded. "I am merely suggesting that you both might want to take some time to consider your decisions."

"We do make them independently, sir."

Cowley looked at him, then poured a half inch of the scotch into his glass. "I'm not a fool, Bodie."

For a moment his breath left him. "It's a wonder you want us at all, sir."

Cowley picked up his glass. "Yes. But you two suit my needs." He made his way back to the sofa. "We were speaking of transitions earlier, of changes. That's the one true foe--the inevitability of change. You and Doyle are struggling with it now. The best you can hope for is to make change an ally, for a time."


Cowley drank the scotch, then turned the glass in his hand while he spoke. "CI5 exists because I was able to create it. Because I was able to call in enough favours and twist enough arms and manoeuvre my enemies into thinking that by allowing me CI5 they would ease their own paths." Cowley's mouth twitched, as if at an inner joke. "We have been extremely effective. More so than anticipated by some."

"It's been a pleasure, sir."

"Yes. You remember what I told you of the Wakeman incident? After that, I made CI5 into my image. The payment for that will be due before long. When I am retired, CI5 will either cease to exist, or will change beyond recognition."

"One-man operations are vulnerable. You told me that once."

"But sometimes necessary. I am mindful, however, of leaving a more lasting legacy. Of taking advantage of all we have built to forge change into our ally. CI5 has been successful because we have operated outside the traditional services and agencies, using the best from all of them. Their ideas, their personnel, their services when necessary, allied to our own. I have kept CI5 separate, but I now believe the future depends on integrating our training methods, our ideas, our methods into the other services."

"They're too different."

"Not at heart. And that's where I'm aiming. What is it that Doyle says? 'There's always one good copper'."

"Doyle's an idealist. You told me that, too."

"Aye. But he'll gamble with me on the truth of it."

He would, too. "What are your plans?"

Cowley leaned forward, setting the empty glass on the table. "I'm toying with a number of ideas. There is time for their development. Provided I have the services of those I can rely upon."

"Doyle and me."

"Yes, among others."

"And we've a role to play in this grand scheme of yours."

"Of course."

"Provided we stay on now."


Bodie lowered his eyes. "Have you discussed any of this with Doyle?"

"He did not give me sufficient time."

Bodie suppressed a grin at that and then he looked at Cowley. "Here's the deal, then. I'll work for you, in Ops, with Doyle as my field partner. He'll be doing much the same as he's been doing for the past two months. We do that until he fails his assessments. And then we'll see what's developed from your planning." He drew a breath. "One thing more. I have final say on whether he goes in on an op, or not."

"Doyle will argue that."

"I'll handle Doyle."

"Very well." Cowley stood and reached for his coat.

Bodie blinked at him. "I may not be able to convince him. About any of it."

Cowley, shrugging into his coat, merely smiled. "I have every faith in your persuasiveness."

"But--" Bodie struggled to his feet, grasping his cane.

"Thank you for the drink. This has been a most enlightening discussion." Cowley walked to the door. "You needn't bother to see me out. I shall expect to see you and Doyle at HQ on Monday next." He glanced around the flat. "You may retain this flat."

Bodie leaned on the cane, and his eyes narrowed. "Why you conniving old bastard--you planned this!"

"That's quite enough of the 'old', laddie. Give my regards to Doyle." Cowley nodded his head at Bodie and left, closing the door softly behind him.

Bodie stared at the closed door, then his gaze shifted to the glass of whisky Doyle had poured for him long ago. Christ. Doyle was going to kill him. Slowly. Cowley probably reckoned on that, too. Well, it was an elegant way to dispose of agents who tried to leave CI5, wasn't it?

Moving slowly, Bodie set the locks, closed the curtains, and went to the sofa to lie down. He eased into a comfortable position, sighing at the relief. He was, he admitted, interested in Cowley's proposition. It gave him a sense of direction, of possibility. There would be difficulties, many difficulties, but he reckoned he might be able to do it. He could at least see a chance in it. Maybe. And they'd still be partners, of a sort. They could forge their own way, like they always had.

Cowley's top team. That thought brought to mind Farley and Burke. He'd never told Doyle what Burke had said, had never shown him that Burke hadn't died because of Farley, but for Doyle; for them. Burke had died for what he had lost and for what they still had--what they might continue to have, if Cowley was right.

Don't lose your partner.

I meant what I said all those years ago.

Maybe Doyle hadn't needed to be told.

Thinking of the past, pondering the future, Bodie drifted off to sleep, images mixing together in his dreams.

He woke to find Doyle sitting on the edge of the table in front of him, watching him. The last of the afternoon sun struggled to penetrate the curtains. The room was lit by fairy light. He looked at Doyle, silent and still, and then he reached out a hand to brush Doyle's broken cheekbone.

"I wasn't lying."

Doyle caught his hand. "Neither am I."

"I know that." Bodie sat up slowly, easing his leg to the floor. They were close, face-to-face, but not touching except for his hand in Doyle's. "Everything all right at headquarters?"


"Cowley was here." He read surprise in Doyle's eyes, before they narrowed. "He wants us both in CI5. He's got plans for our future."

"No surprise there. Did you tell him to stuff it?"

"Erm.... Well...." He scrunched his face.

Doyle let go of his hand. "You're going back to CI5, then?"


"He called you to heel." Doyle's voice was flat, remote.

"You know better than that."

Doyle stared at him, eyes unyielding, but Bodie held his gaze. Doyle slowly nodded. "All right. But what did he say to convince you?"

"He needs us. And he says he can't have you without me."

"Well, that's true enough. I doubt he put it like that."

"Near enough. He wants you on the Squad."

"Not without my partner."

"I'll be your partner. But I'll be in Ops. You'll be my legs--fetch and carry what I need." Bodie tried a smile on him.

Doyle ignored it. "Is this what you want?"

Bodie sighed. "I don't know. Maybe. I don't like the idea of you going out without me. But you've been doing it for two months. It'd be the same role, except we'd be partners. One on the inside, one on the outside."

"I like this flat."

"Cowley said we could keep it."

"I like my car."

Bodie looked pained. "We'll negotiate."

Doyle leaned forward. "I have to know that you want this."

"That works both ways, sunshine."

"It didn't earlier."

"No. My fault." He left himself open to Doyle's scrutiny.

"I did some thinking while I was at HQ. You bastard. You were mourning me, weren't you?"

Bodie looked at him, startled.

"You're so damn sure I'll leave you, you were getting out first. Blaming me with that bollocks about pity when you were the one running."


"No. Why the fuck would you think I'd pity you, you stupid prick?"

"Because I can't fucking walk, that's why!" Doyle stretched out his hand to him, but Bodie shoved it away.

"You can and you will."

"I can't be on the Squad. It's all I've ever known and I can't bloody well do it any more. And I've got to watch you go on ops--"

"Without you."

"Without me. It makes me feel...useless."

"Useless. You bloody idiot. When the fuck are you going to understand that you're my life? I wouldn't be here now without you."

Bodie took Doyle's hand in his. "This is what scares me." His thumb brushed along the calluses left by daily gun practice. "What'll happen when these have faded?"

Doyle shifted his hand, clasping Bodie's hand tightly. "Then there'll still be this. Won't there?"

Bodie, looking into Doyle's wide eyes, felt the constriction inside him begin to loosen. "Yeah."

"I told you it was more dangerous than pity."

Bodie smiled, the old smile that lived for danger.

Doyle pulled him slowly forward. "We can walk away from Cowley."

"There's no need." Bodie leaned into the pull and his lips found Doyle's.

Doyle broke the kiss, his free hand rubbing Bodie's neck. "I've got bruises you won't like. Someone used me for a punch-bag."



"What happened to the bloke?"

"Allison and Susan persuaded him to stop."

"Permanently?" Bodie's hand began stroking gently over Doyle's back.

"No. Cowley wanted him."

"That's a pity." Bodie met Doyle's eyes, and he moved his hand to Doyle's face. "It's not going to be easy. But Cowley's right that we've built something here. I'd like to see it through."

After a moment, Doyle nodded. "I would, too. I must've got used to the bastard." He leaned into Bodie, kissing him, then pulled back. "What else did Cowley say?"

Bodie pulled Doyle towards him. "Later. We've some unfinished business."

Doyle closed his eyes, chin lifting as Bodie's mouth found his neck. "I'm hungry. Thought we'd order takeaway."

"Yeah. Good." Bodie unbuttoned Doyle's shirt.

"You sure you're up to this?" Doyle's fingers were busy with Bodie's clothes, pushing the polo-neck up.

"Positive." Bodie helped Doyle remove his T-shirt and his eyes took in the livid bruises on Doyle's body. He didn't say anything, but he touched them, gently.

Doyle rested his forehead against Bodie's, hands kneading his shoulders. And then he kissed Bodie again, deeply. They started to sink back onto the sofa but Bodie yelped as his leg objected. Doyle backed off immediately.

"No, it's all right." Bodie reached for him.

"Let's go to the bedroom, it'll be more comfortable." Doyle helped Bodie to his feet, and supported him as Bodie kissed him, arms wrapping around him tightly.

"It's been months, Ray." Bodie couldn't seem to get enough of him, enough of this feeling.

"Yeah, I'm aware of that. C'mon." Doyle tried to steady Bodie and start him on his way. But Bodie had other plans.

"No. Here, come with me." Bodie eased himself down to the floor, pulling Doyle with him, away from the table and the sofa where there was more room. His hands caressed Doyle, finding the warm bulk confined by the jeans. Carefully, he unzipped Doyle's jeans.

"Bodie." But Doyle gave in to him, pressing close to Bodie, kissing him.

They finished undressing each other, rediscovering all that was familiar between them. Bodie touched and kissed and explored, soothed when it got to be too much for Doyle, slowing it down. He was surrounded by Doyle, by the taste and the touch and the smell of him, by the sound of his ragged voice, and his pleas. Opening his eyes, he saw Doyle's passion, met the heat of his gaze. He wanted Doyle inside him, he ached for it, but Doyle shook his head and set them to pleasuring each other, mouth to cock, mirroring.

It didn't take long for the sweet pleasure to build, for the flame to engulf them both. His hands tightened on Doyle's thighs and he felt an answering grip as Doyle shuddered. They followed each other to release.

Afterwards, Doyle rolled onto his back, breathing heavily. Bodie sat up, then pushed himself across to Doyle, lying beside him, one hand rubbing his chest. They had ended, somehow, under the tree, the scent of pine mingling with the scent of sex. Doyle smiled at him, looking sated and relaxed. Looking happy. Bodie dropped a kiss on Doyle's collarbone, then another. He felt Doyle's hand on his back, lazily caressing. The flat was silent but for the sound of their breathing, and the whisper of flesh on flesh.

Doyle arched his neck as Bodie kissed the scar at the base of his throat. "Did I ever tell you why that was Sally's favourite ornament?" Doyle's voice was soft.

"No." Bodie placed a finger where his mouth had been, rubbing the white scar there. Doyle's eyes were on the tree above him, but his hand continued its gentle stroking.

"She felt sorry for it. You know the daft notions kids get."

"Why sorry for it?" Bodie propped his head on his hand. With his other hand he drew circles on Doyle's chest.

"Because it didn't have a voice, she said. She always made sure it was placed high on the tree so it'd have the best view, and be seen by everyone. So it'd know how proud she was of it." Doyle turned his gaze to Bodie, eyes lit with humour, sharing it. Bodie leaned forward and kissed him. Doyle's eyes returned to the tree. "Then one Christmas Mum brought home some new ornaments, including a bright, silver bell that really rang, with a clear, true note. Sally wouldn't have anything to do with it."

"Doyle loyalty, eh?" Bodie carefully extricated a pine needle from Doyle's hair before returning his hand to Doyle's chest.

"Yeah." Doyle looked at Bodie, his hand lying still on Bodie's back. "Do you know why my favourite ornament is that old Christmas bell?"

"Because it was Sally's?"

"Yes, because it was hers. But also because it's familiar. Because I love it. Because there's not a new ornament out there that would ever replace it."

Bodie looked into the bright, clear eyes of his partner and the last shadow of doubt flitted away, banished. He reached for Doyle's hand, holding it, bringing it to rest above Doyle's heart. "I'm here to stay."

Doyle's hand squeezed his, and he nodded. "That's fortunate," he said gravely.

"Is it? Why?"

Mischief danced in Doyle's eyes, although his face remained solemn. "Well, you remember those papers they wanted me to sign at HQ?"


"It turns out you don't have a flat any more. You've been, um, evicted."


"Seems there was a bit of a mix-up in Accommodations. They lost--"

"Where's my furniture? My stuff?"

"They're sure they'll find them. Eventually. Got top people working on it right now."

But another thought had blossomed in Bodie's suspicious mind. "Does Cowley know about this?"

"He must."

"That scheming bastard!"


Bodie turned outraged eyes to Doyle. "I told you he said we could keep this flat."

"Yeah. So?"


"Oh." Doyle thought about it. "You don't reckon...?"

"What better reason for two agents to share a two-bedroom flat than to have one lose all his possessions?"

"But that'd mean...." Doyle blanched.

"I want my stuff back."

Doyle pushed himself up to a sitting position, forcing Bodie to do likewise. "I'm sure you'll get it back." He smiled sunnily. "Once everyone is used to us sharing a flat." Stretching, Doyle winced, then carefully climbed to his feet.

"They'd better get used to it quickly," Bodie muttered. His expression lightened as he got a good look at Doyle's back. He stretched his hand out, brushing Doyle's back and bum.

Doyle jumped. "What?"

"Pine needles. Stuck all over you. You're moulting, Doyle." Bodie beamed.

"Bugger." Doyle submitted to being brushed down by Bodie. "That tree is coming down tomorrow."

"You said it was bad luck." Bodie closely examined Doyle's bum to be sure there were no lingering needles.

"I've got you, there isn't room for any more." He hauled Bodie to his feet. "Where's your cane?"

"Over by the sofa. I was rather looking forward to rubbing more pine needles on you."

"You would, Priapus. Don't fall over." Doyle abandoned him to fetch the cane, returning just as Bodie started to sway. "Here you go." He watched as Bodie steadied himself with the cane. "Speaking of which, if they all know that we're living together, does that mean you can stop calling me Louise?"

Bodie looked blankly at him.

"'I had Louise lined up for tonight'." Doyle gave him a sharp look.

"Ah. Just trying to protect your reputation, flower."

Doyle looked unimpressed. "What would I do without you?" He turned, stepping away from Bodie. "I'm going to have a shower."

"What about me?"

"You can organise dinner. There's a good chippie--number's by the phone. You ring and put the order in. I'll go for it as soon as I've showered."

Bodie looked around a little forlornly. "Do I have any other clothes?"

Doyle paused, halfway across the room. "As a matter of fact, yes. Your clothes are in the bedroom."

Bodie turned his eyes to Doyle. "You brought my clothes here?"


"But you said earlier you'd drop me off at my flat. You'd've left me there with no clothes?"

"Minor point." Doyle grinned at him.

"You little bastard."

Doyle saluted him with two fingers, disappearing through the doorway towards the bathroom.

Smiling, Bodie hobbled to the telephone. He'd order the chips with extra vinegar.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Roses and Lavender 4, Allamagoosa Press, 2001

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